John Halamka named president of Mayo Clinic Platform

The longtime CIO and health IT evangelist will leave Boston's Beth Israel Lahey Health to lead digital health strategy at the Rochester, Minnesota, academic medical center.
By Mike Miliard
10:30 AM

Mayo Clinic has hired Dr. John Halamka as president of its Mayo Clinic Platform – a digital health initiative designed to transform care delivery at the world-class health system by deploying "artificial intelligence, the internet of things and an ecosystem of partners," as Halamka describes it.

This is a significant new move for Halamka, who has worked in Boston, mostly at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, for nearly 25 years.

He served as chief information officer at BIDMC for two decades, and more recently, since its merger with Lahey Health, was executive director of the Health Technology Exploration Center for Beth Israel Lahey Health. He's also held the title of International Healthcare Innovation Professor at Harvard, and logs some 400,000 air miles each year cris-crossing the globe searching out innovative new applications. He's also a practicing emergency physician in addition to many other titles.

Halamka will join Mayo Clinic Jan. 1, 2020.

In an early-morning post on his long-running Geek Doctor blog, he explained that, "as an adviser to many startups, incubators and accelerators around the world, I've experienced the barriers and enablers to innovation. Challenges include lack of standardized technology (APIs with sufficient data granularity and workflow integration), policies (templates for security, privacy, risk analysis, ethical use of data, and communication) and people (sufficient staffing to run pilots and focus on collaborators).

"Launching a pilot can take six months just to work through approval processes," said Halamka. "Sometimes academic medical centers can take as long as 18 months to formalize a proof of concept project. What if a Platform of technology, policies and people were able to radically shorten the time to evaluate emerging companies and created an 'innovation factory' for collaboration? That's how I think about the Mayo Clinic Platform opportunity."

Halamka will keynote the HIMSS Healthcare Security Forum next Tuesday, December 10, in Boston.

Always at the forefront of technology-enabled care delivery, Mayo Clinic has been making some major innovations this year. In September, the health system embarked on a big 10-year partnership with Google Cloud, which will securely store its data, while working with clinicians to apply AI and machine learning to an array of complex use cases.

A week after that partnership was announced, Mayo Clinic CIO Cris Ross explained that the health system is eyeing the "next generation of care."

Ross explained that machine learning applications large and small would be key to "generation next," which he described as "systems of intention, insight and cognition – systems that know what we want, help us see what we otherwise wouldn't see and help us think.

The new Mayo Clinic Platform is how the health system plans to get there, and Halamka has been tasked with leading it. In addition to his new role, Mayo Clinic also announced that Dr. Clark Otley, a professor of dermatology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, would be the new chief medical officer at Mayo Clinic Platform.

As for Halamka, in addition to his many leadership roles across healthcare, he also runs Unity Farm in Sherborn, Massachusetts – home to 250 animals, 30 acres of agricultural production, a cidery and a winery.

On his blog, he explained that he will "live in an apartment in Rochester, Minnesota from Monday-Thursday, then return to Unity Farm Sanctuary for weekend animal care and farm maintenance."

"Dr. Halamka has a proven track record of success in innovation and value creation," said Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, president and CEO, Mayo Clinic. "His extensive experience and network will help power the Mayo Clinic Platform forward to benefit our patients and to support Mayo Clinic's path for the future."

"Am I excited by the work ahead? Most definitely," said Halamka in his Dec. 4 blog post. "Am I daunted by the responsibility and accountability of shaping the future of Mayo's digital businesses? Of course. I call this, excited anxiety. During those stages of life when there is a perfect storm for innovation, I find that a little adrenaline really maximizes focus, especially when you're not sure where the path ahead will lead."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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