The day after Dr. John Halamka announced on his popular blog, "Life as a Healthcare CIO" that he would be stepping down as chief information officer at Harvard Medical School to focus on his CIO duties at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, he was on a plane to Japan. He was there to lecture and meet with industry, academic and government leaders. He e-mailed with me after his plane landed. Here is part of my interview with him:
An exit interview with Dr. John Halamka
Conn: You are perhaps THE most active human being I've ever met. You mentioned in your blog announcing your decision that you often engage in self-reflection, and also that you're approaching 50. Is it possible that John Halamka wants to slow to a less-than-superhuman pace?
Halamka: Thanks so much for the kind words. I'll be 50 (in May). I've looked ahead at the work required for healthcare reform, and it requires depth of focus rather than breadth of activity. My teams and I will need to create the clinical registries, health information exchange, and business intelligence required to support the accountable care organization growing around BIDMC. This will require new staff in the clinical-systems, community-hospital, and community-practice portions of my organization. At the same time, we'll do 5010, ICD-10 and prepare for meaningful use Stage 2. Thus, it's not about the pace of work, it's about the nature of the work.
Conn: You described the intense needs at Harvard for a system capable of handling petabytes of data while BIDMC would be pushing to meet the need for accountable care, medical homes, etc. What were the factors in choosing the latter rather than the former?
Halamka: My publications and academic work have concentrated on healthcare IT rather than educational IT or basic science IT. See here. My life is not about fame or fortune; it's about making a difference. I believe that healthcare IT is the area in which I can make the biggest difference.
Conn: Will you also be able to sustain you high level of work with the HIT Standards Committee and other federal advisory committees?
Halamka: I will increase my time in federal and state activities because standards and HIE are prerequisites for healthcare reform. I was recently named the co-chairman of the Massachusetts HIT/HIE Advisory Group, the multistakeholder body guiding our state healthcare information exchange efforts.
Conn: What's the next big IT challenge at BIDMC, now that you're Stage 1 meaningful-use certified? Are you (BIDMC) going for attestation in fiscal 2011? Why?
Halamka: BIDMC certified its systems in January, attested in April and received Stage 1 payments in May. The Policy Committee has recommended to ONC that Stage 2 timelines be deferred one year for those who attest in 2011, so we will not run into any timing problems.
Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn.
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