Friedman receives Provost grant for a Learning Health System

The Provost of the University of Michigan has awarded a Global Challenges for a Third Century grant to Charles P. Friedman, UMSI and School of Public Health professor and director of the university’s health informatics program.

The Global Challenge grants were established to fund “the most innovative and creative ideas from across campus to tackle some of the world’s most vexing problems,” according to the Provost’s office. The program is open to all faculty and encourages risk-taking, multi-disciplinary approaches with the potential to have a transformative effect on any of the world’s greatest challenges.

Friedman received a $293,500 grant for his project “UM as the Engine of a Global ‘Learning System’ to Transform Health.”

Friedman stated in his proposal: “There is no greater global challenge than improving the health of individuals and populations. Nations around the world–including our own–are plagued by rising health costs, inconsistent safety and outcomes, a persistent latency between best practice knowledge and its actual application in health maintenance and health care, and an inefficient public health and biomedical research infrastructure.”

The solution he proposes is the development of a learning health system (LHS) that capitalizes on the growing amount of health data accessible in digital form. An LHS is essentially a “smart grid” for health that enables continuous access to data relevant to any specific health problem across the nation, analyzes the data, converts it to useful knowledge and transmits it to all stakeholders in a format that promotes positive action and healthy behavioral change.

Friedman’s project involves a team of 43 faculty and senior staff from across ten academic units. In the project’s first phase, the team will focus on two scenarios: one relating to the needs of people with multiple chronic diseases and the other relating to public health disease surveillance. Working within these scenarios, they plan to develop key capabilities that will make a complete learning health system possible at a national and ultimately global scale.

This grant builds upon a previous National Science Foundation grant Friedman received in November, 2012, to fund a workshop in Washington that brought together some of the nation’s leading scientists to identify barriers to creating an LHS on a national scale and provide direction for addressing these issues.

Posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2013