School of Informatics and Computing Menu

Charles P. Friedman, Ph.D.: The ‘Learning Health System’ as the Consummate Informatics Challenge



There is growing recognition that the nation requires a Learning Health System (LHS) to provide higher quality, safer, and more affordable health care. An LHS is one that can routinely and securely aggregate data from disparate sources, convert the data to knowledge, and disseminate that knowledge, in actionable forms, to everyone who can benefit from it.

Achieving a Learning Health System at a national scale requires solution of a wide array of technology and policy problems and, as such, is the consummate challenge in health informatics. This presentation will describe the LHS, why it is vital to our future, a pathway through which the nation might achieve an LHS, the specific problems that must be addressed, and why, therefore, it is the consummate informatics challenge.


Charles Friedman joined the University of Michigan in September of 2011 as Professor of Information and Public Health, and Director of the new Michigan health informatics program. This appointment follows 8 years of work for the federal government, prior to which Dr. Friedman served for 26 years as a university faculty member and administrator.

Most recently, Dr. Friedman held executive positions at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. From 2007 to 2009 he was Deputy National Coordinator and from 2009 to 2011 he was ONC’s Chief Scientific Officer. While at ONC, Friedman oversaw a diverse portfolio of nationwide activities that included development of a “learning health system”, health IT research and workforce development programs, evaluation of ONC’s programs, clinical decision support, and international cooperation for eHealth. He was the lead author of the first national health IT strategic plan which was released in June of 2008.

From 2003 to 2006 Dr. Friedman was Senior Scholar at the National Library of Medicine where he oversaw NLM’s training and bioinformatics grant portfolios, and played a prominent role in developing the National Centers for Biomedical Computing. From 2006 to 2007, he served as an Associate Director and Chief Information Officer of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Prior to his work in the government, from 1996 to 2003, Dr. Friedman was Professor, Associate Vice Chancellor for Biomedical Informatics, and Founding Director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh. In these roles he functioned as Chief Information Officer of the university’s schools of the health sciences and directed the Pittsburgh program for Integrated Advanced Information Systems (IAIMS). He served from 1977 to 1996 in a range of faculty and administrative roles at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He directed the Office of Educational Development in the School of Medicine, served as Assistant Dean for Medical Education and Medical Informatics, and co-founded the Duke-UNC medical informatics training program.

Dr. Friedman is an elected fellow and past president of the American College of Medical Informatics, and an Associate Editor of the Journal of the Amercian Medical Informatics Association. He was the Founding Chair of the Group on Information Resources of the Association of American Medical Colleges. He was the 2011 recipient of the Donald Detmer award for policy innovation in biomedical informatics. He is co-author of a textbook on Evaluation Methods for Biomedical Informatics.