We outline the fundamental properties of a highly participatory rapid learning system that can be developed in part from meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs). Future widespread adoption of EHRs will make increasing amounts of medical information available in computable form. Secured and trusted use of these data, beyond their original purpose of supporting the health care of individual patients, can speed the progression of knowledge from the laboratory bench to the patient's bedside and provide a cornerstone for health care reform.
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