Halamka envisions use of online sites to share health records

People use social media, Wikipedia and other such sites to share information about current events and their day-to-day lives. Now, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka envisions a world where similar sites are used to share medical information.

Halamka, a FierceHealthIT Editorial Advisory Board member who also serves as co-chairman of the federal Health IT Standards Committee, said that sites similar to social media platforms could allow doctors to "tweet" on patients' conditions and make Wikipedia-esque entries on their care, according to an article in The Boston Herald.

The websites would be HIPAA-compliant and would have security protections, Halamka said at a meeting being held by JASON, an independent group made up of scientists who advise the government on science and tech matters.

Halamka spoke to JASON during a meeting in California this week where the group was set to discuss its April report on the use and transfer of health data.

In that report, the group said there are many barriers that physicians face in digital health record adoption--including how to safely and easily transmit data.

Privacy of information is a major concern throughout the healthcare industry. Even Apple is receiving blowback from healthcare experts regarding the privacy of its recently announced HealthKit program.

Halamka believes that thinking outside the box is necessary to overcome those barriers.

To keep the data on the websites protected, Halamka suggested using what he calls "social documentation" products, with services offered in the cloud, on mobile devices, and some via new enterprise software--such as institution hosted, and HIPAA-compliant, instant messaging. 

Currently, many health data records are stored in separate databases, but Halamka wants to make the dissemination of information easier for patients and doctors.  

"We know doctors are using electronic health records, but we need to know, how do you get data from North Boston to South Boston?" Halamka said, according to the Herald. "I imagine it would include everything from what your allergies are to diagnoses."

As active patient engagement in healthcare grows, helping patients access data and connect with doctors in a simpler way will become essential--and ideas like Halamka's will, in turn, become more important. 

To learn more: 
- read the Boston Herald article
- read Halamka's blog post on social documentation