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Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2018 Oct;44(10):566-573. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjq.2018.03.010. Epub 2018 Jul 9.

Using Learning Communities to Support Adoption of Health Care Innovations.

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is Senior Study Director, Westat, Rockville, MD. Electronic address:
is Senior Study Director, Westat.
is Associate Director, Westat.
is Research Analyst, Westat.
is Vice President, Health Care Research, The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg.
is Deputy Director, Division of Practice Improvement (previously, Health Scientist Administrator), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.



Diffusion of innovations can be a slow process, posing a major challenge to quality improvement in health care. Learning communities can provide a rich, collaborative environment that supports the adoption of health care innovations and motivates organizational change. From 2014-2016, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Health Care Innovations Exchange established and supported three learning communities focused on adopting innovations in three high-priority areas: (1) advancing the practice of patient- and family-centered care in hospitals, (2) promoting medication therapy management for at-risk populations, and (3) reducing non-urgent emergency services.


Members of each learning community worked collaboratively in facilitated settings to adapt and implement strategies featured in the Health Care Innovations Exchange, receiving technical assistance from content experts. Project staff conducted a mixed methods evaluation of the initiative, both formative and summative.


The activities and outcomes of the three learning communities provided insights about how this approach can support local implementation efforts, and about factors influencing innovation adoption. Using a qualitative synthesis method, lessons were identified related to learning community startup (recruitment and goal setting), learning community operations (engagement, collaborative decision-making, and sustainability), and innovation implementation (changing care delivery processes and/or policies).


Findings from this work indicate that the learning community model of group learning can serve as an effective method to support dissemination and implementation of innovations, and to achieve desired outcomes in local settings.


Adoption of innovation; Communities of practice; Health care innovation; Learning communities; Quality improvement


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