Introduction and definition of the term Learning Health System (LHS) appears to have occurred initially around 2007. Prior to this and the introduction of electronic health records (EHR), a predecessor could be found in the Clinical Pathways concept as a standard medical care plan and a tool to improve medical quality. Since 1997, Japan's Saiseikai Kumamoto Hospital (SKH) has been studying and implementing Clinical Pathways. In 2010, they implemented EHR, which facilitated the collection of structured data in common templates that aligned with outcome measurements defined through Japan's Society of Clinical Pathways. For each patient at this hospital, variances from the desired outcomes have been recorded, producing volumes of structured data in formats that could readily be aggregated and analyzed. A visualization tool was introduced to display graphs on the home page of the EHR such that each patient can be compared to similar patients. Knowledge learned from patient care is shared regularly through Clinical Pathways meetings that are supported by all staff within the hospital. The SKH experience over the past two decades is worth exploring further in the context of the development of a fully functional LHS and the attributes/characteristics thereof. In this report, the SKH experience and processes are compared with previously published attributes of a fully functional LHS (ie, characteristics of an LHS that can indicate maturity). Specific examples of the SKH system are detailed with respect to leveraging knowledge gained to change performance that improves patient care as prescribed by learning health cycles. The SKH experience and its information infrastructure and culture exemplify a functional LHS, which is now being expanded to additional hospitals with the hope that it can be scaled and serve as a solid platform for measures aimed at improving medical care, thus establishing broader and more global learning health systems.
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