School of Public Health awarded $4 million for training program to improve patient care research

The University of Minnesota will be partner with Mayo Clinic and Hennepin Healthcare.

Mohamed Ibrahim

The University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, along with Hennepin Healthcare and Mayo Clinic, are collaborating on a new training program that will train healthcare researchers by embedding them within healthcare facilities to speed up the turnaround between research and practice.

The program, called the Learning Health System Mentored Career Development Program (MN-LHS), is funded by a $4 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, as well as the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The program is one of 11 chosen to receive the grant which will be disbursed over five years.

“It’s kind of flipping it around, where it’s narrowing the gap between academia and practice,” said Tim Beebe, a professor in the University’s School of Public Health and program co-director. “It’s just a different way of doing research, and the genesis of questions is more grassroots and inductive.”

Every year, two to five scholars will be chosen to research health care practices from within, working side-by-side with clinicians to speed up the turnaround between data from the practice and how to improve on it. The co-directors have been reviewing applications this past month and will begin interviewing candidates next week.

“One of the main principles of this learning health systems research is not taking five years to do a study, but to do it more quickly so that clinical practice can be informed and changed in a quicker time frame, so rather than five years it may be five months or five weeks,” Beebe said.

MN-LHS and its new approach to researching healthcare delivery will likely lead to advancements in the quality of patient care, said Co-Director Mark Linzer.

“By partnering with patients in the selection of research projects, by training scholars to look at what works and what doesn’t work in large health systems, and by working with health system leaders to implement the findings,” Linzer said. “The chances of improved patient care are very high.”

The learning health systems approach to research is fairly new, and although it has been implemented in some places in the past, a collaboration of this scale is unprecedented, said Nilay Shah, third co-director of the program who chairs the Mayo Clinic Division of Health Care Policy and Research.

“Some places have done it on the research side but … this is a relatively new approach,” Shah said. “Here at Mayo we have done it with a few areas. But, again, it’s somewhat rudimentary and early in its approaches because we were sort of experimenting with those approaches.”