Present: Chief Medical Officer, North American Public Sector, CSC; also serves on the American Medical Association“™s Board of Trustees
Career highlights: Wah began his career as a reproductive endocrinologist with a Harvard Medical School fellowship. He went on to serve as vice chairman of OB-GYN department at San Diego Naval Hospital. In 2001, began working on health information technology for the Department of Defense; eventually became Associate Chief Information Officer for the Military Health System, where he managed a yearly portfolio of roughly $900 million in IT tools for military physicians. In 2005, served as first Deputy National Coordinator for Health IT at HHS.
Personal: Wah balances his meticulous planning side with what he calls “plan-free vacations“ “” going domestic or internationally with just a flight reservation and making a trip up as he goes. “My Chinese heritage has taught me the importance of balance,“ he says.
- Look to other industries. “Cybersecurity, cloud computing, and identity management, are things used in other industries that will have a significant role to play in improving care and health information technology,“ says Wah.
- Draw on expertise from commercial and global markets. “Simply being a government healthcare contractor is not sufficient in today“™s world. Commercial, government, and global healthcare are all tied together. There are similar problems faced by each of those areas.“
- Look beyond hardware or software affiliations. “It“™s important to offer the best solutions to government partners and not be constrained by hardware or software affiliations.“
ExecutiveBiz: Where do you see healthcare IT headed?
Robert Wah: Health IT will come in three waves. The first wave is about moving from paper to electronic; it“™s already unfolding with the HITech Act and the National Coordinator putting out requests for proposals for health information exchanges at the state level. The next wave is a digital interoperative exchange network of health information. There is probably over $45 billion that will come out over the next five years to help healthcare providers move into the digital world. Those two waves are moving in parallel. The third wave will be analytics and informatics. We will see people looking to extract valuable information through both.
ExecutiveBiz: What role do you see government contractors, and accompanying technology offerings, playing in those three waves?
Robert Wah: Health information technology will be a foundational element for healthcare reform. Much of the things talked about in healthcare reform cannot occur on a paper-based system. There is also a lot of discussion about insurance cooperatives or exchanges. That will be another area where technology will be employed to expand the coverage of citizens. Population analytics is yet another area. In our case, we work with the Centers for Disease Control to track emerging epidemics and other problems based upon electronic information.
ExecutiveBiz: What, in your view, must contractors do to be successful in the healthcare IT space?
Robert Wah: We need a better way of identifying who“™s on the network and making sure the information is protected and secure. That means beyond just “classic health IT,“ contractors need to look at other industries to see what they“™ve done to improve that industry. Companies that have expertise not only in healthcare but also in cybersecurity, identity management, and the classified arena, with the Department of Defense for one, will have an advantage. It“™s also important to draw upon expertise from the financial community; we see commonality, obviously, in relation to how large volumes of transactions get processed in a secure and efficient manner.
ExecutiveBiz: What technologies will be leveraged to meet healthcare solutions?
Robert Wah: Cloud technology, which offers scalable, on-demand use of data support as opposed to traditional data centers, will be a significant advance. In CSC“™s case, we“™re working with Google, Salesforce.com, Amazon, and Microsoft to deliver services on demand. Systems integrators like CSC will play an important role in bringing these “best of market“ solutions to government clients. We just marked 50 years as an independent systems integrator; the marketplace has left us the last large system integrator independent of hardware or software products. So, when CSC brings advice to clients and partners, we“™re doing so independent of hardware and software affiliations.
ExecutiveBiz: How do global healthcare issues inform your healthcare IT work?
Robert Wah: The healthcare world is merging rapidly; I don“™t think there“™s a strong difference anymore among commercial, government, and global healthcare markets. CSC has all three of those areas deeply covered. We have a vast commercial healthcare group that installs electronic healthcare records in hospitals and helps commercial insurance and life science companies. We also have a large government practice where we help clients like the Department of Defense and the VA. Globally, we“™re involved in countries using health information technology to improve citizens“™ lives. For example, CSC is part of the largest health IT integration project, in the United Kingdom. We“™re responsible for over 60 percent of the country, in the UK“™s health information technology project. We have 15 million citizens on our system. We“™ve also worked in countries like Denmark, Netherlands and other parts of the world where people are facing the same kinds of healthcare challenges as here in the United States.
ExecutiveBiz: As debate over healthcare reform advances, what can we expect next from CSC?
Robert Wah: We“™re talking about a huge part of our economy changing in healthcare reform. It“™s something that all patients, citizens, physicians “” all people in the country “” have to be watching, because it will have a profound impact on all of us from a financial, productivity, and, most importantly, health standpoint. There is nothing more important than for citizens to be healthy and productive. I still care for patients. I still do surgeries. I also continually make sure that we, at CSC, take the perspective that technology is a tool but the end goal is how to improve patient care. As a technology company I think we“™re transforming healthcare by providing better information to patients, doctors, government agencies, life science researchers “” all with that end goal in mind.