Halamka’s New Journey at Mayo Clinic

John HalamkaBy John Halamka, MD
Twitter: @jhalamka

After nearly 25 years in Boston, I’m beginning a new journey at Mayo Clinic in the role of president, Mayo Clinic Platform. Many colleagues have asked me about the transition.

First, I have profound thanks for my mentors and collaborators in Boston. I could easily fill an entire blog post with the names of hundreds of people who worked with me since 1996 on cloud services, mobile applications, machine learning, connected devices, and data standards.

Those innovations made a positive impact on many people. At Mayo, I believe I can scale the lessons learned in Boston to stakeholders around the world. How?

As an adviser to many startups, incubators, and accelerators around the world, I’ve experienced the barriers and enablers to innovation. Challenges include lack of standardized technology (APIs with sufficient data granularity and workflow integration), policies (templates for security, privacy, risk analysis, ethical use of data, and communication), and people (sufficient staffing to run pilots and focus on collaborators). Launching a pilot can take 6 months just to work through approval processes. Sometimes academic medical centers can take as long as 18 months to formalize a proof of concept project. What if a Platform of technology, policies and people were able to radically shorten the time to evaluate emerging companies and created an “innovation factory” for collaboration? That’s how I think about the Mayo Clinic Platform opportunity.

Although I’ve visited Mayo many times, I’ve just scratched the surface in my understanding of the culture, capabilities, and colleagues. A good way for anyone to understand what makes Mayo uniquely Mayo is to watch the Ken Burns documentary.

How will I spend my first 100 days at Mayo? Although I do not begin the role until January 1, 2020, I’m taking personal time off to volunteer at Mayo during December, meeting dozens of stakeholders at every level of the organization. I need to listen to their hopes and needs for Mayo Clinic Platform projects. There is a remarkable interim team leading the Platform today and they will guide me through the work to date, the critical decisions ahead, and the refinement of the strategic plan. Together, we’ll advance the strategy, structure, and staffing for the Platform. Outstanding support teams in legal, development, compliance, IT, and public affairs will help. I’ll speak about our early decisions at JP Morgan and HIMSS. Mayo CEO, Gianrico Farrugia, will keynote the HIMSS conference.

Personally, I will live in an apartment in Rochester, Minnesota from Monday-Thursday, then return to Unity Farm Sanctuary for weekend animal care and farm maintenance. The flights are easy (2.5-3 hours, 3 times per day on Jet Blue), and even with weekly commuting I may actually travel less in 2020 than in 2019 (400,000 miles in 40 countries).

During times of great challenge and change, I’ve blogged on a daily basis, sharing my successes and failures transparently with government, academia and industry colleagues. Recently I’ve focused on writing articles and books. The pace of the Mayo Clinic Platform effort necessitates frequent blog posts. I’m renaming my blog from “Life as a CIO” to “Dispatches from the Digital Health Frontier”. My hope is those dispatches will help others with the path forward, following the best trails and avoiding pitfalls.

Am I excited by the work ahead? Most definitely. Am I daunted by the responsibility and accountability of shaping the future of Mayo’s digital businesses? Of course. I call this, excited anxiety. During those stages of life when there is a perfect storm for innovation, I find that a little adrenaline really maximizes focus, especially when you’re not sure where the path ahead will lead. As my colleague Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, M.D., Director General, Sheba Medical Center told me “innovation is when you have an urgency to change but don’t know exactly how to get there. If you know where you’re going, it’s just implementation not innovation.”

With today’s Mayo announcement, I believe the next perfect storm is beginning and I’m ready. And I’ll make sure my readers have a front row seat.

John D. Halamka, MD, MS, is President of the Mayo Clinic Platform, where he leads a portfolio of new digital platform businesses focused on transforming health by leveraging artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and an ecosystem of partners for Mayo Clinic. This article was originally published in his blog Dispatch from the Digital Health Frontier and is reprinted here with permission.