To describe a new Veterans Health Administration () program to foster the learning health system paradigm by rigorously evaluating health care initiatives and to report key lessons learned in designing those evaluations.
The 's Quality Enhancement Research Initiative and its Health Services Research and Development Service are cooperating on several large, randomized program evaluations aimed at improving the care veterans receive and the efficiency with which it is delivered. The evaluations we describe involve collaborative design, outcomes assessment, and implementation science through partnerships between operations and researchers. We review key factors to assess before committing to an evaluation. In addition to traditional design issues (such as ensuring adequate power and availability of data), these include others that are easily overlooked: the stability of intervention financing, means of controlling and commitment to adhering to randomized roll‐out, degree of buy‐in from key implementation staff, and feasibility of managing multiple veto points for interventions that span several programs, among others.
Successful program implementation and rigorous evaluation require resources, specialized expertise, and careful planning. If the learning health system model is to be sustained, organizations will need dedicated programs to prioritize resources and continuously adapt evaluation designs.