Digital health care expert to discuss future of tech, patient care at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute public lecture

John Halamka
How can machine learning, mobile apps, wearable technologies, and blockchain enhance patient outcomes? John Halamka, chief information officer for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, will discuss how technological innovations are revolutionizing health care worldwide on Dec. 12 at a free public lecture in Roanoke.

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Five years ago, the federal government mandated all health care providers to adopt electronic medical record systems. Since then, software engineers, physicians, and scientists have been designing new digital tools that are intended to revolutionize the future of health care.

For John Halamka – who oversees all technology connecting 14,000 employees and 2 million patients across five hospitals in Boston – technological innovations are transforming health care delivery worldwide.

Halamka will deliver the next Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. The free hour-long presentation, “What’s Next in Digital Healthcare?” will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 12 at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke.

Halamka is the executive director of the Health Technology Exploration Center at Beth Israel Lahey Health in Boston, and has served as chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for more than 20 years.

Halamka will describe emerging technologies, lessons learned, and best practices at the intersection of health care and technology during his presentation in Roanoke.

“Americans are used to being passive recipients of health care,” said Halamka, who continues to practice emergency medicine, in a blog post. “When they see their physician, they expect to receive a pill or have a procedure performed.”

A more active approach may be the better way.

From wearable technology that tracks real-time biometric data, to mobile applications, blockchain, and artificial intelligence, Halamka said that technology can help improve wellness.

“Using these digital tools to assist a patient and family with wellness is going to be the next generation of health care delivery, as opposed to more hospital beds,” Halamka stated in an interview.

As the endowed International Healthcare Innovation Professor at Harvard Medical School, Halamka has served the George W. Bush and Obama administrations and helps governments across the world prepare health care information strategies. In the past year alone, Halamka visited 40 countries while working to build partnerships that bridge government policy, academic research, and industry to develop new regulations and technologies that revolutionize patient care.

Halamka also chairs the New England Healthcare Exchange Network, overseeing data exchange in Eastern Massachusetts.

Last year, Halamka became one of 140 members inducted into the Chief Information Officer Hall of Fame. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society also honored Halamka with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015, and named him among the 50 Most Influential Technologists of the Past 50 Years.

“Dr. Halamka is an international leader in health care information technology and the application of emerging digital tools that have the capacity to revolutionize medical care,” said Michael Friedlander, vice president for health sciences and technology at Virginia Tech, and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

Fusing software development and health care was a natural fit for Halamka. From an early age, Halamka began exploring computer engineering. While completing bachelor’s degrees in microbiology and public policy at Stanford University, he formed a tax and accounting software startup company, Ibis Research Labs. The company grew to have 25 employees and was sold in 1992.

After completing a doctor of medicine degree at University of California San Francisco, Halamka wrote code for an electronic health record system while finishing an emergency medicine residency at Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center. He later completed an informatics fellowship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a master’s of science degree at Harvard University.

Halamka will begin his new role as president of the Mayo Clinic Platform in January 2020.

In addition to working as an emergency physician, Halamka is a consulting mycologist for the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention in Boston, providing clinical guidance on 300 mushroom and plant cases per year. He also operates Unity Farm, a 30-acre certified organic farm and sanctuary for 250 animals, and completed a certificate in organic and sustainable farming from the University of Massachusetts in 2016.

The free presentation, named for Maury Strauss, a Roanoke businessman and longtime community benefactor, begins at 5 p.m. with a free public reception for those attending the talk at 2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, followed by the hour-long lecture starting at 5:30 p.m. Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lectures are webcast live, archived on YouTube, and streamed on Facebook Live.