NORWOOD, MA – Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka, M.D. wears more than just that one hat: He’s also co-chair of the ONC’s HIT Standards Committee and the chair of the New England Health Exchange Network (NEHEN), the organization charged with erecting a “network of networks” through which patient data will freely flow.
At the Massachusetts Health Data Coalition HIE conference on June 9, Halamka outlined how HIE implementation is coming along in the state, through the more populous areas of Boston out to the “last mile” of the Berkshires hinterlands. In listening to it, it’s clear that while there is still a lot of work to be done before patient data will fire through EHR systems from North Adams to the tip of Cape Ann, more progress has been made in the state than in many others across the country.
Halamka related a personal anecdote that drove home the importance of building HIEs. His wife, diagnosed with cancer last year – well documented on his blog – needed HIE to work in order to keep her network of care providers (including five doctors at three specialty care facilities) updated during her long arc of treatment that included exams, imaging studies and chemotherapy.
At times like these, it’s good to have a ringer on your team.
“There was no way she could coordinate her cancer treatment unless she had full access to all of her data at all of her sites. And it just so happened, because I do control the data…” Halamka said, to uproarious laughter in the room of several hundred attendees, “…that I was able to make sure she had it.”
Then, the tone turned more serious, as Halamka continued explaining how he hopes his HIE implementation labors would eradicate the need for such patient-data interventions. “You shouldn’t need a husband CIO….We should be able to push, with patient consent, data to a [health care] product or service.”