Key Terms & Concepts

Gaining Traction

Though our faculty, staff and students come from many different backgrounds and disciplines, we understand that not everyone may be familiar with the language of the learning health sciences.

For starters, we define learning the continuous process of study and improvement that is supported by an infrastructure that allows for implementation at all levels of scale.

Here is a list of other common terms and their definitions to help provide context and create a deeper understanding of the work our department does to support continuous improvement of health care systems.

Competency-Based Medical Education (CBME): As defined by Frank, et al., CBME is an outcomes-based approach to the design, implementation, assessment and evaluation of medical education, using an organizing framework of competencies (observable abilities of health professionals integrating knowledge, skills, values and attitudes). – Source: Frank JR, Snell LS, Olle TC, et al. Competency-based medical education: theory to practice. Med Teach. 2010; 32: 638-645.

Entrustable Professional Activity (EPA): a self-contained activity that the typical health professions educator may be expected to perform in the context of his/her professional role. Master of Health Professions Education students complete EPAs to receive credit toward program completion.

Health Infrastructures: the creation, curation and application of information at multiple levels of refinement ranging from raw data to actionable knowledge. The goal of health infrastructures is to improve the health of individuals and populations.

Infrastructure: integrated technologies, policies and patterns of human behavior that, together, support a broad range of activities in a given domain of human endeavor.

Interprofessional Education: As defined by the World Health Organization, “Interprofessional education occurs when students from two or more professions learn about, from, and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes. Once students understand how to work interprofessionally, they are ready to enter the workplace as a member of the collaborative practice team. This is a key step in moving health systems from fragmentation to a position of strength.” - Source: World Health Organization (WHO). (2010). Framework for action on interprofessional education & collaborative practice. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Knowledge Grid: open source software system that rapidly moves best practice knowledge into widespread use to improve health.

Learning Health Sciences: any science focused on improving how we learn. Includes interdisciplinary marriage of, but not limited to: behavioral, social, organizational, implementation, education, cognitive, information, computer and simulation sciences as well as industrial and systems engineering.

Learning Health System: a concept first expressed by the Institute of Medicine in 2007. Learning health systems are organizations or networks that continuously self-study and adapt using data and analytics to generate knowledge, engage stakeholders and implement behavior change to transform practice.

Learning Loop: framework of the learning health system to promote continuous improvement. Comprised of three main actions: data to knowledge (D2K); knowledge to performance (K2P); and performance to data (P2D).

Simulation: As defined in the Healthcare Simulation Dictionary, simulation is a technique that creates a situation or environment to allow persons to experience a representation of a real event for the purpose of practice, learning, evaluation, testing, or to gain understanding of systems or human actions.

Simulation Fidelity: As defined in the Healthcare Simulation Dictionary, simulation fidelity is the level of realism associated with a particular simulation activity. The physical, semantic, emotional and experiential accuracy that allows persons to experience a simulation as if they were operating in an actual activity.

Systems Integration: An engineering term meaning to bring together the component subsystems into one system that functions together. In health care, the ability to improve the quality of care and patient outcomes through re-engineering of care delivery processes.


Many research articles have been published about the promise and efficacy of learning health systems.

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