John Halamka

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John D. Halamka is a physician and technology leader who focuses on the adoption of electronic health records and the secure sharing of healthcare data for care coordination, population health, and quality improvement.[1][2]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Halamka was born in Des Moines, Iowa and relocated to Southern California in 1968. He attended St. James Elementary School and Palos Verdes High School.

He graduated from Stanford University in 1984 with degrees in Public Policy and Medical Microbiology. While at Stanford he wrote econometrics software for Milton Friedman, performed research for the autobiography of Dr. Edward Teller, and served as teaching assistant to Presidential candidate John B. Anderson. He authored three books on technology issues, wrote a regular column for Infoworld, and was founding technical editor for Computer Language magazine.[3][4][5]

In 1981, he formed a software startup company, Ibis Research Labs, in the basement of Frederick Terman's Palo Alto home. The firm developed tax and accounting software for CP/M and early IBM PC computers. The firm grew to 25 employees and was sold to senior management in 1992.

He attended the joint MD/PhD program at UCSF and UC Berkeley from 1984–1993 and completed an Emergency Medicine residency at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center from 1993-1996.

Information Technology[edit]

Halamka joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School as an Instructor in 1996. He completed a post doctoral fellowship in medical informatics at Harvard and MIT in 1997. Soon after, he was selected to be the Executive Director of CareGroup Center for Quality and Value (CQV), a data analysis and business intelligence division of the Caregroup Healthcare System.

In 1998, he was named Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and initiated a multi-year effort to securely web-enable clinical information systems with CareWeb, sharing data among five hospitals with patient consent. CareWeb became a foundation for future information sharing efforts among Massachusetts hospitals.[6] Halamka's efforts ensured Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was one of the first hospital adopters of electronic health records [7] and electronic prescribing.[8] He is focused on enhancing quality, improving safety, and increasing efficiency in healthcare through the strategic application of information technology.[9]

In 2001, he was hired as part-time Chief Information Officer at Harvard Medical School, in addition to his CareGroup duties. His early work focused on the MyCourses Learning Management System.[10]

In 2001, he was named Chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network, leading efforts to enhance the number of payers and providers exchange healthcare data in Massachusetts.[11]

In 2002, Halamka was both a culprit and a leader for the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center when his entire network crashed and paralyzed the Hospital Network in the Greater Boston Area. John, reverting back to his Emergency Room days, took charge, and with a Cisco CAP Team and Network Emergency crew of approximately 100 people in total, was able to recover, restore, and rework the entire network in less than 4 days.

Taking Action Beth Israel Deaconess CIO John Halamka learned two critical lessons from his four-day disaster:

Lesson 1 Treat the network as a utility at your own peril. Actions taken: 1. Retire legacy network gear faster and create overall life cycle management for networking gear. 2. Demand review and testing of network changes before implementing. 3. Document all changes, including keeping up-to-date physical and logical network diagrams. 4. Make network changes only between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. on weekends.

Lesson 2 A disaster plan never addresses all the details. Actions taken: 1. Plan team logistics such as eating and sleeping arrangements as well as shift assignments. 2. Communicate realistically—even well-intentioned optimism can lead to frustration in a crisis. 3. Prepare baseline, "if all else fails" backup, such as modems to query a network and a paper plan. 4. Focus disaster plans on the network, not just on the integrity of data.

In 2004, he was named Chairman of the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP), which harmonized data standards as part of the Bush Administration's healthcare information technology program. HITSP was replaced in 2009 by the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Committee (HITSC) and Halamka was named co-chair.[12] HITSC recommends standards and certification criteria in support of Meaningful Use to the Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare IT.

In April 2011, he was named full Professor at Harvard Medical School.

In July 2011, Halamka announced his intention to step down from his Harvard Medical School CIO role in 2012, so that he could focus his efforts on Statewide Healthcare Information Exchange and Healthcare Reform efforts in Massachusetts, while retaining his CIO role at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.[13] Biogen Idec Executive Rainer Fuchs will be assuming the HMS CIO role.

In August 2011, he was named Co-Chair of the Massachusetts HIT/HIE Advisory Committee, a multi-stakeholder group which advises the Massachusetts HIT Council, the governance body which sets priorities and approves the allocation of state and federal funds for healthcare information technology spending in Massachusetts.

In March 2012, he was named to the board of OSEHRA, the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent, a non-profit established by the Department of Veterans Affairs, dedicated to accelerating innovation in electronic health record software.[14]

Other interests[edit]

Halamka continues his work as an Emergency Physician, and provides mushroom and poisonous plant consultation to the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention (Boston).

He also writes the blog, Geekdoctor: Life as a Healthcare CIO.

Halamka has authored the following books:

The Best of CP/M Software [15]

Real World Unix [16]

Espionage in the Silicon Valley [17]

See also[edit]

Personal Genome Project[18]


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  15. ^ Halamka, John (April 1984). The Best of CP/M Software. Longman Higher Education. ISBN 978-0895881007. 
  16. ^ Halamka, John (May 1984). Real World Unix. Longman Higher Education. ISBN 978-0895880932. 
  17. ^ Halamka, John (January 1985). Espionage in the Silicon Valley. Longman Higher Education. ISBN 978-0895882257. 
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External links[edit]