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Mayo Clinic Platform headed up by former healthcare CIO

Longtime Boston-based health IT expert John Halamka will move on from his role at Beth Israel Lahey Health for a new role leading Mayo Clinic's digital healthcare effort.

After 25 years leading health IT efforts at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, now known as Beth Israel Lahey Health, John Halamka is heading to the venerable Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

He is taking on a new role as president of the Mayo Clinic Platform, leading a team that focuses on data-driven innovation to address issues in healthcare and find better ways to treat patients and deliver care.

Mayo Clinic is currently in the process of developing a platform that integrates cutting-edge technology such as AI and machine learning to analyze both structured and unstructured data and discover potential business opportunities and more cost-effective methods for treating patients. One of Halamka's main goals will be building a common platform for global collaboration to drive transformation in healthcare.

In an onstage interview at the World Economic Forum in January, Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, defined the initiative as a "healthcare-centric platform built around clinical knowledge." He stressed the importance of collaboration, saying no one healthcare organization alone can bring the kind of industry change that's needed and a common platform where data is shared can spark innovation.

"It is only when you bring everybody together that you get transformation in healthcare," Farrugia said during the interview. "The platform is really a space for these interactions to happen in an open and collaborative fashion." 

Taking on a new, transformative role

John Halamka, executive director of Beth Israel Lahey Health's Health Technology Exploration CenterJohn Halamka

Halamka, who starts his new role Jan. 1, believes the Mayo Clinic Platform is a chance to bring "technology, policies and people" together to collaborate on data-rich use cases, such as finding home-care services for a patient.

Currently, a task such as arranging home care requires patient families to spend a lot of time making phone calls and researching what's available.

"It's a very manual process," Halamka said. "There's no app for that."

The Mayo Clinic Platform could bring those resources together in one place. Halamka said it wouldn't just be Mayo Clinic on the platform, but hundreds of collaborators around the world providing home-care services.

Together, with the right technology in place, Halamka believes they can connect data from around the world that makes processes more efficient, utilize data such as from the internet of things in new ways, and deliver more effective care to patients.

"My wife had breast cancer in December 2011, and the question she asked, which was an obvious one, was, 'I'm a 50-year-old Korean female with Stage 3A breast cancer that's estrogen positive and progesterone positive and there are thousands of people like me. How did they do? What was their treatment? What were their side effects? What did their journey look like?' No one in healthcare can answer a question like that today," he said.

If healthcare can put together the right privacy protections, determine who can see what data and how the data can be used, it can help deliver better care to future patients based on past data, according to Halamka.

How the Mayo Clinic-Google partnership will work

The announcement of Halamka's hiring comes a few months after Mayo Clinic announced a 10-year strategic partnership with Google to use "advanced cloud computing, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to redefine healthcare delivery."

Halamka said part of his new job will be striking a balance between privacy and innovation, especially when forming strategic partnerships with technology companies like Google.

That's a lot of what we're going to have to do at Mayo is exploring the unknown for the benefit of patients worldwide.
John HalamkaSoon-to-be president, Mayo Clinic Platform

In that case, Mayo Clinic's data will be stored in the private Mayo Clinic Cloud, which is housed within Google Cloud. Mayo Clinic will also work with Google on research and innovation projects, combining Mayo's clinical expertise with Google's data engineers.

Google won't have independent access to Mayo Clinic data stored in the cloud. Any data shared will be authorized for the purpose of Mayo Clinic research or projects. Google is also prohibited from combining Mayo Clinic data with any other data.

Halamka said that while his work with the Mayo Clinic Platform will focus on innovating and experimenting with what can be done with healthcare data, patient privacy will be paramount.

"I think we all agree that the course of the next five years will have increasing digitization of healthcare, and hospitals are going to have a core competency in offering digital services, but what are those services? How do you ensure privacy? How do you ensure data integrity? How do you ensure reliability? These are all very hard questions," he said. "That's a lot of what we're going to have to do at Mayo is exploring the unknown for the benefit of patients worldwide."

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