Chief Medical Officer
“CSC is Transforming Healthcare with Better Information for Better Decisions”
Interview with Dr. Robert Wah, CSC’s Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Robert Wah is CSC's Global Chief Medical Officer, and president of the American Medical Association. Since 2007, Dr. Wah has been ranked in the top 10 in Modern Healthcare magazine's "50 Most Influential Physician Executives." He was named one of 2014's Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare.
He served over 23 years on Active Duty in the Navy and was the Associate CIO for the Military Health System where he led the requirements team and managed the portfolio of over $900,000,000 annual spend on Health IT tools covering 450 clinics and 70 hospitals worldwide for over 10 million patients.
At HHS, Dr Wah served as the first Deputy National Coordinator for Health IT. He set up the ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT) and was Chief Operating Officer. Dr. Wah was vice chairman of the Navy's largest Ob/Gyn department with over 200,000 patient visits and 4000 annual deliveries and has served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School, University of California, San Diego and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He is past Chair of the AMA Board of Trustees and also serves on the Board of Directors for the McKnight Brain Research Foundation.
Dr. Wah did his training at National Naval Medical Center Bethesda and Harvard Medical School and holds two board certifications. He is also a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. Dr. Wah currently sees patients, does surgery and trains residents and fellows at the NIH and Walter Reed National Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland.
What is the most critical healthcare-related issue facing the nation?
There are really two intertwined issues. One is: How do we improve quality in healthcare? Along with that, we need to manage the cost of the care. It’s getting very expensive.
If we can provide the best quality care, we should be able to lower the cost. If we can keep people healthier, rather than let them get sick and fix them, we should be able lower the overall cost of the system. Health information technology (HIT) plays a central role in addressing each of these challenges.
Tell us about some of the major public sector healthcare projects CSC is currently involved in.
I’m always impressed by the spectrum of CSC’s healthcare work. At one end of this spectrum, we run one of the country’s largest Medicaid systems, eMedNY, for New York state. It manages over 350 million claims, 150 million eligibility verification transactions and over $49 billion in payments annually.
At the other end of the spectrum, CSC has 8 physician employees delivering care at the high-risk Hanford Nuclear Facility’s occupational health clinic.
Between these extremes, CSC has an array of projects touching every facet of healthcare. For example, at CSC’s DynPort Vaccine Company LLC (DVC), we take new vaccines from the laboratory to patients. We use automated tools to gain FDA approval, manage the clinical trials and get the vaccines delivered as fast as possible to the military.
Another example is our partnership with the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS), which helps state health agencies report public health findings to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We have developed, managed and currently run a Web-based tool for this reporting to be done easily electronically.
Describe some of the ways in which CSC’s thought leadership is transforming health IT.
A major transformative area CSC is involved in is health informatics. This is where we unlock value from databases, producing useful information for doctors that can improve patient care. We plan to do this in a number of places. One is the Blue Health Intelligence project that works with all Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. The other is with government agencies like the Medicare system, FDA and CDC, all of which collect a great deal of information from patients.
Through informatics, CSC can take this raw data and transform it into valuable information that will help doctors, payers, researchers and government make better decisions about patient care.
Which of CSC’s health services initiatives can have the most impact on the industry at large?
I think it’s forming and connecting “data islands,” or groupings of patient information.
Healthcare organizations are beginning to put information together electronically within their own organizations; these data islands need to be connected. A large company like CSC, with its global reach and capabilities, can accelerate the process of both forming and connecting data islands.
We are forming islands through our work in Massachusetts, for instance, and connecting them to create a nationwide health information network. We have also connected Denmark and the Netherlands, and will be connecting 60 percent of the United Kingdom.
Another way in which CSC is influencing the overall health IT landscape in the US is through our service in major public-private health initiatives. For example, I’m now on the Planning Group to transition the American Health Information Community (AHIC) from a government activity to a public-private entity that will bring all stakeholders together to advance health IT nationwide. This initiative will have a significant impact on improving care and saving money for patients.
How does CSC leverage commercial healthcare experience to better serve government healthcare?
All of healthcare, I believe, is looking to improve the quality of care delivered, increase effectiveness and efficiency, and decrease the rising costs of healthcare. This means that many of the challenges facing healthcare organizations in the civilian environment are also applicable to government entities running healthcare programs.
One example is the pharmacy data transaction service we provide DOD, where all military beneficiaries’ prescriptions are maintained in a single database. So, when I order a prescription for a patient at Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, my order gets checked against the database. If there is a contraindication, duplication or potential interaction with another medicine the patient is taking, I get that information back on my screen within 2 seconds of hitting the Enter key.
This same system is in place in 55,000 civilian pharmacies — an example of how technology can improve patient care by avoiding many thousands of potential complications due to medication errors. It also saves money and more importantly, protects patients— whether it’s used by DOD or a civilian entity.
Visit our Government Health Services section.
Read about CSC’s award-winning work for CDC.
Explore CSC’s work with major US government agencies involved in healthcare.
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