Funding exceeding $4.2 million will establish a center in New Jersey weaving research and clinical practice to improve the delivery of health care

Rutgers Health and RWJBarnabas Health received a $4,237,500 grant over five years to train future scientists and health professionals to deliver higher quality, safer and more efficient patient care through a new innovative data-driven initiative.

The grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) will establish a state Learning Health System Embedded Scientist Training and Research (LHS E-STaR) Center.

In a Learning Health System, internal data and experience are systematically integrated with external evidence, and that knowledge is put into practice to improve care.

Rutgers Health and RWJBarnabas Health are among 16 institutions funded nationwide that will establish a premier Learning Health System. Officials of the New Jersey center will recruit scientists and health care professionals who are representative of the diverse backgrounds and cultures of the communities they serve. The center will support their professional development by strengthening institutional research training, strengthening partnerships, conducting research and implementing innovations that improve health outcomes and health equity in the state.

“To improve the quality, safety, outcomes, efficiency, equity and patient-centeredness of care, we need to carefully study what we do and how to do it better,” said Ethan Halm, center co-director and vice chancellor for population health at Rutgers Health and deputy chief population health officer at RWJBarnabas Health. “Applying Learning Health Systems Science to real world clinical settings and training researchers and health professionals in how to do this is how we will accomplish these important goals for health care.”  

“We are excited to join the other LHS E-STaR Centers across the country in this initiative as we work with RWJBarnabas Health to train scientists who are representative of the diverse backgrounds and cultures of the communities we serve,” said Shawna Hudson, center co-director and vice chancellor for dissemination and implementation science at Rutgers Health who also is a senior associate dean for population health research and a professor of family medicine and community health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The scientists taking part in the initiative will work within health systems while receiving training and professional development and conduct patient-centered health research employing the AHRQ-sponsored competencies for Learning Health System Research. They will work alongside clinical, health system and community leaders to produce evidence that can be implemented and tested in real time at these care delivery systems.

“AHRQ and PCORI are training a new cadre of Learning Health System Scientists,” said AHRQ Director Robert Otto Valdez. “Health care systems and their providers will use these scientists evidence to advance care as quickly, broadly, and equitably as possible.

“Our organizations are following through on our commitment to support Learning Health Systems such as Rutgers Health and RWJBarnabas Health by helping to train this new group of scientists. That investment is expected to pay off many times over in new knowledge generated and better treatments delivered to patients,” he said.

The initiative is vital to AHRQ as it fits squarely within the federal agency’s mission of making the best possible use of data and ensuring that evidence is understood and used. It also is essential to PCORI’s mission of helping people make informed health care decisions and improving health care delivery and outcomes by producing and promoting high-integrity, evidence-based information from research guided by patients, caregivers and the broader health and health care community.

“RWJBarnabas Health is very excited to be a key partner in the LHS E-StaR NJ program that will conduct and evaluate real world interventions to improve the processes and outcomes of care we deliver,” said Andy Anderson, executive vice president and chief medical and quality officer for RWJBarnabas Health. “Bringing evidence and LHS science to improve the quality, outcomes and efficiency of the care we deliver is critical to our mission.”

“Learning Health Systems are committed to providing patients with higher quality, safer, equitable and more efficient care by applying evidence from research to promote innovation and systems change,” said PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook. “These efforts are advanced when health systems employ people with the skills to explore relevant evidence and produce insights that can be implemented in routine practice to improve care.”