Creating a rapid-learning health system in Ontario

Ontario’s health system and research system are increasingly putting patients and rapid learning and improvement at the centre of their priorities. At the request of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (through a Health System Research Fund grant entitled ‘Harnessing Evidence and Values for Health System Excellence’), the McMaster Health Forum recently published a rapid synthesis to explore this approach.

The rapid synthesis provides an Ontario- (or Canada-) appropriate definition of, and set of characteristics for, a rapid-learning health system; documents existing assets and gaps for Ontario & a region (Mississauga Halton), sector (primary care) and category of conditions (mental health and addictions); and identifies 'windows of opportunity' that can be capitalized on or created to stimulate the development and consolidation of a rapid-learning health system.

Creating a rapid-learning health system in Ontario offers the potential to:

  • enable data- and evidence-informed transformations at all levels of the health system in ways that are more rapid, better sustained locally and more widely spread across teams, programs, organizations, Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) sub-regions and LHINs (and thereby join up the different parts of the system so they work well together);
  • motivate greater collaboration among, and enable greater impacts of (and returns on investments in), all elements of the research system; and
  • better leverage the quality-improvement infrastructure operating at the interface between the health and research systems.

“I’ve been energized by our work on creating a rapid-learning health system, which is an approach that has the potential to get the different parts of the health system and research system working collaboratively to drive improvements in the patient experience and in health outcomes,” said John Lavis, Director of the McMaster Health Forum. “This synthesis provides a roadmap for Ontario, and for other provinces and territories, to move forward with this approach.”

This rapid synthesis was a collaboration between authors John Lavis, François-Pierre Gauvin, and Heather Bullock from the McMaster Health Forum; Robert Reid and Walter Wodchis from Trillium Health Partners; and Anne Hayes from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Read the full rapid synthesis.

Learn more about the Forum’s Rapid Response program.