DAVID BURDA: Now, inwhen youre teaching some of these residents, do you assess them by hell make a great doctor, shell make a great doctor or he or she has a future in management? Are you eyeing that?
DR. ROBERT WAH: Oh, I dont think theres a big difference. I think to be a successful physician you need to be a good manager as well. Its very difficult today to be completely independent. You need to work with a team, whether it be nursing staff, hospital staff or office staff. Theres still a need to be a manager and a leader as a physician. Theres a great expectation. The term captain of the ship is often used. Having spent 23 years in the Navy Im very interested in that term. But I think that physicians will always be expected to be leaders and managers at the same time. So I think when we assess our residents and our trainees were looking for a physician who can take the best possible care of their patients. And to do that I think they have to be both skilled clinicians and surgeons as well as good managers and leaders.
DAVID BURDA: Do you think physicians carry more clout in healthcare management because they are physicians compared with non-physician-executives?
DR. ROBERT WAH: I think we bring the clinical perspective having been in direct patient care. Most times physicians have an experience base that no one can really duplicate. And so I think we do have, I dont know if its clout but we certainly have expertise to bring to the table that others who have not been involved in direct patient care cannot replicate or bring to the table.
DAVID BURDA: Do you see physician-executives becoming a bigger force for change in healthcare in the future?
DR. ROBERT WAH: I think so, yes. I think that again because we can articulate our experience as clinicians taking care of patients we bring that functional perspective to whatever business process were talking about, whether it be a hospital, insurance company. In my particular circumstance, I work for an information technology company so there are a lot of very smart engineers, technologists but there arent very many people in our company that have had direct patient-care experience. So thats something that I can add to the mix.
DAVID BURDA: Since you do work for an IT company, do you have any position on mandated use of IT or e-prescribing?
DR. ROBERT WAH: Well, prior to joining the private sector I was acting deputy national coordinator as you know. Our philosophy in the office was that government mandates would probably not work and that the way we approached it was to try to stimulate the marketplace, both on the sellers side and the buyers side so that there wouldthere would be an active market for health information exchange as well as health information technology. I think we continue to need to look at the business case for the use of information technology in healthcare. Clearly, theres a clinical case. We think we can improve care. Many times we can decrease medical errors, things like that, but there is a cost to that in terms of financial cost but also business process in terms of revamping the business flow or the workflow of the office. And so I think that needs to be continually examined and held high as a priority to solve because until there is a clear business case for physicians and other parts of healthcare to use technology itll be difficult to implement it very widely.
DAVID BURDA: Robert, where do you see yourself in five years?
DR. ROBERT WAH: Ha, let me see. A beach? No, lets see. I think in five years I hope to beIm very happy where I am with my current position, you know, with the technology company. I hope that we will be in an environment where physicians have more technology tools at their fingertips to take better care of their patients. And Ive been espousing in my company that were really trying to transform healthcare with better information for better decisions. And I think that process is just now starting to rise and crest, and Im hoping in five years that well be realizing the benefits of those changes that were putting in place now.
DAVID BURDA: Very good. Anything else youd like to tell our readers?
DR. ROBERT WAH: I think in terms of the readers, again I appreciate the recognition of being selected and voted as one of the top 50 physicians. I think that it is a great honor, as I said before, to be recognized by ones peers, and I appreciate that opportunity. I certainly appreciate Modern Healthcare and Modern Physician for having this ballot and award. I think it does help to shine a light on the great work that physicians are doing outside of their clinical skills in terms of management and leadership.
DAVID BURDA: Very good. Thank you very much.
DR. ROBERT WAH: Thanks.