Mayo Clinic hires health IT veteran John Halamka to lead digital health strategy, AI projects

John Halamka, M.D. is leaving Beth Israel Lahey Health to lead Mayo Clinic's digital health efforts. (Mayo Clinic)

Health IT pioneer John Halamka, M.D. is leaving Massachusetts after 23 years to lead Mayo Clinic's digital health and artificial intelligence projects.

Halamka is leaving Beth Israel Lahey Health, where he served as executive director of the Health Technology Exploration Center, to become president of Mayo Clinic Platform.

He will join Mayo Clinic on Jan. 1.

Halamka served as chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for more than 20 years. He also was an International Healthcare Innovation Professor at Harvard Medical School.

He remains chairman of New England Healthcare Exchange Network Inc. and is a practicing emergency medicine physician.

"It's an exciting time to join Mayo Clinic and work with new colleagues to enhance what we can offer to patients worldwide," Halamka said in a statement. "The Mayo Clinic Platform provides us the opportunity to shape health care in a new and dynamic way."

The Mayo Clinic Platform is a strategic initiative to improve health care through insights and knowledge derived from data. The technology platform will elevate Mayo Clinic to a global leadership position within digital health care, the health system said. 

RELATED:  Mayo Clinic taps Google Cloud as strategic partner to accelerate innovation in AI, analytics and digital tools

Mayo Clinic recently announced a 10-year strategic partnership with Google to use the tech giant's cloud platform to accelerate innovation through digital technologies. As part of the collaboration, Mayo Clinic will store patient data in the cloud and use advanced cloud computing, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to advance the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Partnerships between health systems and tech companies are becoming fairly common. But questions have been raised about the use of patient data in these healthcare-tech partnerships.

A massive data project between Google and Ascension sparked controversy over concerns about the lack of transparency. The announced deal enables the health system to move detailed health information on more than 50 million patients to Google's cloud computing system. The partnership is two years old and was discovered by The Wall Street Journal rather than disclosed by the companies.

Halamka has a proven track record of success in innovation and value creation," Farrugia said.

"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," Farrugia said.

RELATED: Google's Feinberg launches defense of Ascension data deal

Halamka attended medical school at the University of California, San Francisco and simultaneously pursued graduate work in bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley focusing on technology issues in medicine. He completed his residency at Harbor–UCLA Medical Center in the Department of Emergency Medicine.

As a Harvard Medical School professor, he served in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, as well as governments in other countries, planning their healthcare IT strategies. 

The health IT veteran also is a well-known blogger, speaker, and author, having written a dozen books about technology-related issues.

Halamka is equally passionate about farming and runs Unity Farm in Sherborn, Massachusetts with his wife. Unity Farm is an animal rescue organization that's home to 250 animals as well as a working farm with 30 acres of agricultural production, a cidery and a winery.

Mayo Clinic also named Clark Otley, M.D. as chief medical officer, Mayo Clinic Platform. Otley joined Mayo Clinic in 1999.

Otley is a professor of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, a physician in the division of dermatologic surgery and medical director for the Department of Business Development. He is also president of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

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