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Experience shaped Halamka's healthcare interoperability view

It's no secret that John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, has strong opinions concerning certain matters in health IT -- he's been very outspoken about meaningful use, for example.

As it turns out, Halamka has been influenced by his personal experiences and they have shaped some of his opinions -- specifically those on healthcare interoperability and data sharing.

One such experience was when Halamka's mother broke her hip in October 2011.

"The emergency physician said, 'We need an appropriate list of your medications,' and the hospital she went to in Los Angeles was not able to communicate with the primary care office one mile away to get an accurate medication list," Halamka explained. Ultimately, his mother brought all of her pill bottles with her and the emergency physicians put her on every medication for which there was a bottle. They did not know which was a current medication and which was not.

"She was put on medications that caused so many interactions and problems," Halamka said.

Halamka's mother ultimately developed pneumonia after attempting to drink some water and aspirating. She had to stay in the hospital for several more days "basically because of medication errors caused by lack of communication between hospitals and doctors' offices," Halamka said. "Data should be available from doctors' offices and pharmacies so that hospitals get the medications right as you come in, and as you leave and go back to the community."

With his mother, Halamka experienced the effects of the absence of interoperability and data sharing; with his 22-year-old daughter, he experienced the benefits of healthcare interoperability in action.

Halamka's daughter called him one weekend night concerned about some symptoms she was experiencing. As many know, on a weekend night it can be difficult to find and get help. However, Halamka's daughter opted to go to an urgent care center to get her symptoms checked.

"Beth Israel Deaconess has urgent care centers that are open late, and are capable of doing lab results very quickly and very cost effectively," Halamka said.

Halamka was also able to review his daughter's lab work -- with her permission -- remotely and within minutes of the results.

"So, here we have an example of my daughter and I communicating using an electronic health record and sharing data among each other on a weekend night to coordinate her care and make sure nothing bad is happening," Halamka said. "And it worked."

Let us know what you think about data sharing and healthcare interoperability; email Kristen Lee, news writer, or find her on Twitter @Kristen_Lee_34.

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