'Grandfather of EMR' Named Life Sciences Champion

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Today at the Indiana Life Sciences Summit, BioCrossroads’ Board of Directors named Dr. Clem J. McDonald recipient of the 2019 August M. Watanabe Life Sciences Champion of the Year Award. The prestigious honor named in tribute to BioCrossroads’ late Chairman August Watanabe, was given to Dr. McDonald for his unprecedented impact on health IT and digital health in Indiana and abroad.

Previously a distinguished professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine and director of the Regenstrief Institute for Health Care, Dr. McDonald is known as the “grandfather of EMR” after developing one of the nation's first electronic medical record systems and the first community-wide clinical data repository, the Indiana Network for Patient Care (INPC), which enables the Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE).  The INPC has widely contributed to clinical trials research and patient health as well as epidemiologic studies, including the discovery of the association between an antibiotic given to newborns and the development of a digestive issue and the severity and mapping of flu outbreaks.

He was one of the founders of the Health Level 7 (HL7) message standards, used in all hospitals today, and also developed the Logical Observation Identifier Names and Codes (LOINC) database of more than 80,000 universal codes for clinical observations, including laboratory tests, clinical measurements and physician reports. It is used in 172 countries and is available in Chinese, Dutch, Estonian, French, German, Greek, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish in addition to English.

Today, Dr. McDonald is Chief Health Data Standards Officer, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, where he collaborates in numerous efforts to facilitate industry adoption of standard vocabularies in EMR and public health reporting, as required by meaningful use regulations.

BioCrossroads presents the Watanabe Award annually to an individual or organization that has made or enabled unique achievements in the development of Indiana’s life sciences and healthcare research, clinical, educational or economic advancement.

“Dr. McDonald’s impact on health IT and digital health has not only greatly impacted the healthcare delivery system for Hoosiers, but has improved the way we deliver healthcare to patients in every hospital in the country today,” said Patty Martin, president and CEO, BioCrossroads.

Dr. McDonald joins an impressive list of previous Watanabe Life Sciences Champion of the Year award winners, including:

Leonard Betley, retired Chairman, President and CEO of Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation;

Richard DiMarchi, Standiford H. Cox Professor of Chemistry and the Linda & Jack Gill Chair in Biomolecular Sciences at Indiana University. Co-founder of Ambrx, Inc., Marcadia Biotech, Calibrium and MB2.

Dane A. Miller, founder of Biomet

Bill Cook, founder of Cook Group

Lilly Endowment under the leadership of Chairman Thomas Lofton

Phillip Low, Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Purdue Center for Drug Discovery—Biochemistry, co-founder of Endocyte and On Target Laboratories.

Bill Eason, founder of Bio-Dynamics, predecessor to Roche Diagnostics

John Lechleiter, former Chairman, President and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company

John Swisher, Founder, JBS United

Virginia Caine, Director of the Marion County Department of Public Health

Anantha Shekhar, M.D., Ph.D., executive associate dean for research affairs at the Indiana University School of Medicine

“I am honored and touched to receive this award named for Gus Watanabe, who was a great leader and scientist at Indiana University School of Medicine and at Eli Lilly.  He was also my boss, mentor and dear friend,” said McDonald. “I am also honored to be in the company of previous award winners who had such strong impacts on our state of Indiana.”

McDonald says there’s been a shift in the EMR sector in recent years to focus more on inter-operability and less on meaningful use.
McDonald says a new tool called FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is powering “a pretty remarkable surge” in joining disparate systems together.
McDonald says, unlike other regions, Indianapolis had an unusually welcoming business environment to pioneer EMRs.
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