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U. of Michigan Adds Learning Health System Degree Programs

February 17, 2016
by David Raths
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U-M also launches Learning Health Systems open access journal

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has made the concept of a learning health system one of the key goals of its interoperability roadmap. To develop the learning health system work force of the future, the University of Michigan will offer two new advanced degrees in Health Infrastructures and Learning Systems (HILS). U-M said the HILS M.S. and Ph.D. programs starting in the fall of 2016 seek to develop researchers and practitioners who can conceptualize and deliver innovative solutions, enabled by information technology, for behavior change and continuous improvement of health of individuals and populations.

The concept of a learning health system is gaining recognition as a mechanism to improve individual and population health. In a learning system, every experience is documented and studied, and the resulting insights employed to drive change. U-M says the HILS program recognizes the critical role of infrastructure — integrating technology, policy, and practice — in making health improvement through learning systems continuous and sustainable. The Ph.D. program will prepare graduates to perform research fundamental to the creation of learning health systems; the M.S. program will prepare practitioners for careers emphasizing the implementation of learning systems.

The HILS program aims to attract students and scholars who come from a variety of disciplines, including health sciences; information, computing and statistical sciences; informatics; complexity and systems science; behavioral and social sciences; organizational and policy sciences; engineering; and economics.

One of the recognized leaders of the learning health system movement is former ONC executive Charles P. Friedman, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Learning Health Sciences and Josiah Macy Jr. Professor of Medical Education at U-M. “At Michigan, we recognize that the challenge of creating a high-functioning learning health system creates a large academic agenda,” he said in a prepared statement. “The HILS program will address an enormous, world-wide need for a new generation of ‘health infrastructuralists.’”

Anne Sales, Ph.D., R.N., is the director of the HILS Program. She is a professor of Learning Health Sciences and adjunct professor of Systems, Populations and Leadership in the School of Nursing. Information about the program, including how to apply for the inaugural class beginning Fall 2016, is available at

Coinciding with the announcement of the new degree program, U-M also announced that in collaboration with John Wiley & Sons Inc., it would launch Learning Health Systems, a new open access journal.

Learning Health Systems seeks to publish research reports, experience reports, briefs, and commentaries describing how the fields of computer, information, implementation and policy sciences, along with related fields can foster the creation of health systems that can be continuously studied and improved.

“Our new journal will be a focal point for accumulating knowledge essential to improving health, and for nurturing a growing academic community,” said Friedman, the editor-in-chief of Learning Health Systems.

Along with Dr. Friedman, associate editors Dr. Brendan Delaney of Imperial College, London; Dr. Jonathan Silverstein of NorthShore University Health System, and Dr. Kevin Sullivan of the University of Virginia will help support the new journal  along with LHS’ editorial board made up of 46 members from nine countries.

“There is great momentum for health systems to become learning health systems, yet the science for how to do so needs a home,” said editorial board member Dr. Peter Pronovost, director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine, in a prepared statement. “The Learning Health Systems journal brings diverse scholars and practitioners together not only to advance the science but also to share, learn and ultimately improve patient value.”

LHS is now accepting submissions. To submit your next manuscript and find out more information, please visit