Improving Learning to Improve Health
“We have taken an idea that has been around for long time and applied it to health. The concept of a learning system involves deep interdisciplinary science that can be applied to our own medical centers and in health generally. Together our diverse faculty study the science of advancing how we learn, and how improving this process at all levels then improves health.”
--Charles P. Friedman, PhD
The Department of Learning Health Sciences (DLHS) is a basic science department focused on revolutionizing learning and transforming health through the advancement of the sciences that make learning effective, routine, and scalable, from individuals up to systems that span states and nations.
DLHS embraces a bold and innovative vision of learning that transcends prior understanding. As shown in this table, once narrowly associated with attainment of knowledge and skills by individual persons, entities that learn now can be individuals, groups, organizations, regions, states, and entire nations. Formerly restricted to a specific time and location, learning now occurs everywhere and all the time as the ongoing product of a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement.
DLHS views learning as a state of mind that can be shared by groups, organizations and systems. Learning is an efficient process supported by infrastructure, or in the broadest sense, as a culture unto itself. A learning state of mind reflects an openness to new information and a readiness to rapidly change on that basis. An efficient learning process, supported by an infrastructure that persists in the world, enables continuous study and improvement to be embedded in routine practice without being seen as a burden or a kind of overhead. A learning culture recognizes that continuous improvement is “what we do here”—akin to the safety culture in aviation—so much so that we don’t routinely talk about it.
Learning in this transcendent sense can itself be seen as a field of trans-disciplinary scientific investigation that develops deep understanding of learning processes and their supporting environments across levels of scale. Behavioral, social and organizational science; cognitive, information and computer science; industrial and systems engineering and other fields combine to create the rich intellectual tapestry forming the learning sciences.