INTELLIGENCE IN ACTION

Health IT Guru Lee Barrett on Being Knocked Out Cold in the ER

Imagine this: Something happens on vacation—an accident, and you’re rolled into the ER, unconscious—and the doctors do everything in their power to help you. But you’re unknown. You’re out cold. And you can’t speak. That’s a problem.

Lee Barrett imagines a world where your driver’s license or phone number is enough for doctors to pull up your electronic health record in seconds, even in a scenario where you’re away from home on vacation and rolled into the ER, unconscious.

In this scenario, providers have what they need to make more informed care decisions, including medication history, clinical records and care documents.

That’s interoperability.

The word interoperability doesn’t generate a lot of excitement, but it does for Barrett, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Electronic Health Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC).

If Barrett’s role at EHNAC sounds like a mouthful, feel free to think of him as “renowned health IT guru,” as Surescripts Chief Marketing Officer Melanie Marcus says of Barrett on the latest episode of our podcast.

Because that’s certainly what he is.

In our eighth episode, hear how Barrett laid the groundwork for what would become the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA); how he’s leading the charge at EHNAC to protect the healthcare industry from cyberattacks and data breaches; and why the future of being knocked out cold in the ER looks much brighter because of interoperability.

Oh, and Barrett is a bow-tie aficionado, if that interests you.

This episode is a masterclass on the development of digital healthcare and trusted data exchange, Marcus says. After some initial small talk on being New Englanders and Barrett’s penchant for bow ties—think wild colors in an array of styles—they dive right in.

Laying the groundwork for patient privacy

To hear Barrett describe it, one choice led to another.

Barrett’s last-minute choice not to attend law school led him down the path to insurance company Travelers, where he ran the annuity business for physician clients, and then employee benefits in managed care. Soon he was asked to spearhead a national project to simplify the administrative burden in healthcare.

That’s when he found himself inside the offices of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in Washington, D.C., laying the groundwork for patient privacy law HIPAA.

Protecting patient data with standards

From early work on patient privacy, Barrett and his colleagues realized that healthcare digitization came with its own vulnerabilities: cyberattacks and data breaches. Barrett was asked to help increase awareness of these risks.

“I can’t tell you we were met with open arms,” Barrett says of the 100 or so clearinghouses that did not relish the prospect of government regulation. But as more people began to understand the risks, more people realized the need for standards accreditation to help safeguard electronic transactions.

That effort led to the creation of EHNAC, which Barrett leads today.

Listen to our eighth episode for Lee Barrett’s “masterclass” on trusted data exchange, including how its acceleration makes protecting patient data as critical as ever.

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