Robert White employs past experience to advance Allegheny Health's IT

Photo courtesy of Allegheny Health Network

Allegheny Health Network is just getting started when it comes to building a mature IT infrastructure, and for Chief Medical Information Officer Robert White, M.D., being able to shape that is one of the best parts of his role at the facility.

White moved into the position at the Pittsburgh-based medical center in April after working as the CMIO for Cleveland Clinic. He’s been honing his CMIO skills for about 11 years, but the move to Allegheny has given him the opportunity to grow even more, he tells FierceHealthIT.

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“The transition for me has been pretty easy, but it’s interesting to come from a relatively mature system to one that’s just beginning to get its feet wet. What’s nice is that you get to help shape that with the new technologies,” he says.

As for the IT department's current projects, White says it has “one foot in each canoe” when it comes to installing its electronic health record platform. Currently, he says, it’s in hundreds of physicians’ offices, but still has a way to go. Allegheny is prepping to move implementation forward to the health system’s acute care facilities and ambulatory care facilities. “That’s the big strategic picture,” he says.

The health system at large also is working on developing its care processes to improve and reduce variation in care, with an eye for moving to a real physician-led organization around that work. White says that he and his team have been invited to the table to be a large part in enabling those care processes. For instance, they are forming designated IT teams around the enterprise development of care path work through the transformation office, which he says will help to define and develop IT enablement of care delivery.

Additionally, White's department is advancing its telemedicine program by making it video-enabled, as well as offering technology support for a new mobile care van.

Still, the job is not without some challenges. Sometimes, White says, he wants to do a lot in a hurry, and that’s not always possible. Priority is key.

“IT’s about developing a priority, developing a direction and moving that forward. That’s not bad, it’s just a necessary thing,” he says.

Another new aspect to the job, White adds, is working with Highmark. Part of his role is reporting to Highmark leadership, and that has allowed him to get a deeper look into other aspects of the whole care process on the payer side of the aisle.

But furthering technology at Allegheny to make improvements to patient care and physician workflow is his true bread and butter. Engaging patients more thoroughly in their own care is something he says the healthcare industry must do better using the technologies at its workers’ fingertips.

“I’m a family physician days of old. I did house calls earlier in my career, and now I think back to those things and how I can help take care of patients from when they’re little to when they’re old,” he says

“I want to take care of people through the continuum of care using technology. That’s why I went into this business, and that’s how I approach my IT life.”

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