Beth Casey Halley

Smart nurse

Nursing alum selected as one of smartest people in health IT

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5:02 p.m., June 16, 2014--When Beth Casey Halley spoke to a class of nursing students at the University of Delaware last fall, she referred to nursing informatics as “the #1 great career you’ve probably never heard of.”

It may be a career unfamiliar to nursing students in the class of 2014, but it was an even more unlikely path for a young nurse in the class of 1981, when health information technology (IT) was in its infancy.

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Now, Halley is considered an expert in nursing informatics, and she was recently selected as one of the 26 “smartest people in health IT” by Becker’s Hospital CIO.

The author of the article highlighting the elite group wrote, “Technology is becoming a major force in the healthcare industry as providers scramble to not only meet government regulations but to provide the best care for their patients in the most efficient way possible.”

Halley would agree with that.

“Technology is a driver for changes in how healthcare is delivered today,” she says. “The Nurse Managed Health Center at UD is a great example of how technology is being integrated into clinical practice, including the use of electronic health records, health information networks and telemedicine.”

She admits that her early interest in health IT came via another Blue Hen — her future husband, Marc Halley, who was working on a master’s degree in computer science when she was an undergraduate nursing student. 

“I saw all of the cool things he was doing and became really interested in applying computer science to health,” she says. “After an internship at Duke, which was leading the implementation of information technology on nursing units, I was hooked.”

Halley was also convinced of the need to involve clinicians in the design of such systems, and she started to do some research into career opportunities. That involved an old-fashioned visit to the library in the pre-Internet days, but her efforts paid off when she landed a job with Shared Medical Systems, currently Siemens, headquartered in Malvern, Pennsylvania. 

Now a principal in the Center for Health Transformation of the MITRE Corp., a not-for profit operating federally funded research and development centers, Halley has been involved in a number of major health IT efforts. She is a nationally recognized expert on nursing and health IT, and she has presented and written extensively on the topic.

In 2013, Halley was inducted into the Alumni Wall of Fame, which recognizes outstanding professional and public service achievements by UD graduates. 

She credits much of her success to her UD education.  “I’m proud to say I’m a graduate of the UD School of Nursing,” she says. “And being a Double Del is a part of who I am. I owe a lot to the University.”

What does she tell students interested in a health IT career?

“The field is wide open and includes elements of clinical practice and workflow,  business, security and privacy, education, and consumer engagement,” she says. “Find a niche that interests you and pursue it.”

Halley has seen tremendous change in the field of health IT over the past three decades. 

“Nursing informatics is now a board-certified specialty, and it’s possible to get both master’s and doctoral degrees in nursing informatics,” she says.

But she also points out that while the “technology” part of IT is relatively new, the “information” part is not.

In her lecture last fall to the UD nursing students, Halley included a quote that sounds almost current: 

In attempting to arrive at the truth, I have applied everywhere for information, but in scarcely an instance have I been able to obtain hospital records fit for any purpose of comparison. If they could be obtained they would enable us to decide many other questions besides the one alluded to. They would show the subscribers how their money was being spent, what good was really being done with it, or whether the money was not doing mischief rather than good.

Florence Nightingale said it in 1896.

About Beth Halley

Beth Casey Halley holds a bachelor of science in nursing degree science from the University of Delaware and a master of business administration from George Mason University.

She has championed health IT exchange standards and has led the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC)’s Consolidated Health Informatics initiative, which recommended exchange standards among the nation's health IT systems. 

Throughout her career, Halley has collaborated on health IT efforts with Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency,  the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense. She has co-chaired the national nursing Technology Informatics Guiding Educational Reform (TIGER) Standards and Interoperability Collaborative.  

She recently finished a term as chair of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s Nursing informatics Committee and now is a member of the organization’s board of directors. She also serves on her community hospital,  INOVA Loudoun Healthcare, board of directors.

Halley is a volunteer nurse at the Loudoun Free Clinic in northern Virginia, where she helped win funding to implement health IT.

She was a 2011 recipient of the prestigious MITRE Program Recognition Award of Distinction for enabling healthcare transformation.

Article by Diane Kukich

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