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UPMC’s New CMIO on the Transformative Role of CMIOs in Health System Change

June 5, 2017
by Mark Hagland
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Robert Bart, M.D. shares his perspectives on CMIOs’ role in health system change

On June 1, senior leaders at the vast, 20-plus-hospital UPMC health system based in Pittsburgh, announced that Robert Bart, M.D. had joined UPMC as the new chief medical information officer (CMIO) of the health system’s Health Services Division. Dr. Bart will oversee the health system's efforts to advance the use of electronic health records (EHRs) and other technologies to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of patient care.

Bart, 55, has come to UPMC after serving for five years as CMIO for the Department of Health Services for Los Angeles County, with a population of more than 10 million. In that role, he oversaw IT management across four hospitals and 18 large, multispecialty ambulatory locations, including hospitals affiliated with the University of Southern California and the University of California Los Angeles. Prior to joining the department, he was chief medical officer for pediatrics and academics at the Kansas City-based Cerner Corporation.

In announcing the appointment, Joel B. Nelson, M.D., chief clinical officer of the Health Services Division at UPMC, said, “Dr. Bart brings a unique set of technology and people skills that will drive our efforts to adopt smart technology that improves care and the patient experience. We are excited to welcome him to a team with a long history of technology leadership and innovation.”

In addition to his role as CMIO, Bart has been appointed associate professor with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Department of Critical Care Medicine and University of Pittsburgh Physicians, and will work clinically as an intensivist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Bart received his medical degree from the University of Hawaii in 1990, then completed a pediatrics residency, a pediatric chief residency and pediatric critical care fellowship over the next seven years, all at Duke University Medical Center.

Shortly after the announcement, Dr. Bart spoke with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding his arrival at UPMC, and his aspirations for his there. Below are excerpts from that interview.

What made you move to UPMC, and how do you envision your role at the organization?

Prior to my position at Los Angeles County, I was chief medical officer for the Cerner Corporation, and in that capacity, I worked with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh quite a bit during the 2007-2010 time period. So I was sort of familiar with Pittsburgh, and very familiar with Children’s Hospital. And I saw Children’s Hospital go through its alignment with UPMC. So I had that background. And UPMC holds a very good reputation nationally, if not internationally. There are aspects of it that remind me of Duke, where I did my training. So when Dr. [Joel] Nelson, the chief clinical officer at UPMC, asked me to come out and interview, I didn’t hesitate. Reputation was one of the big drivers. Also, opportunity: UPMC has always been seen as a leader in healthcare information technology, both as a consumer of solutions, and also as an innovator, through UPMC Enterprises.


Robert Bart, M.D.

When you look at your role as CMIO at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, what do you think you might bring to UPMC from your experience there?

I was actually the very first CMIO for Los Angeles County Health Services. And leaving there was not an easy decision, because I think it was a remarkable place. And at least one of the things I learned there was the incredible passion and will of the people working there to deliver high-quality clinical care to anyone who comes in the door into the hospital or their emergency department. And I met a gentleman named Mike Grace, president of UPMC-Mercy. And they probably do the largest proportion of indigent-care services within UPMC. And meeting with him was a key point for me, because it also got me to see that there was a compassion and an ability to deliver services to the underserved, even in a non-governmental environment. And we talked about the percentage of uninsured receiving services. Pre-Obamacare, uninsured was around 23 percent, and it’s a much smaller percentage now.

And one of the things that Mike had shared with me was that UPMC is working with just over a 4 percent uninsured rate, perhaps at UPMC-Mercy or at the Oakland campus. But in any case, one of the things I saw was that there was an ability to deliver that kind of care through the UPMC system. Another draw for me is that UPMC is really trying to change the model of care delivery through the integration of its insurance division and health services division. I think that’s really a unique model, and that was also an attraction for me, because I want to learn and understand that.

I see CMIOs as nexus people, in terms of the need for the U.S. healthcare to undergo clinical transformation, and their role in as change agents and facilitators in their organizations. How do you see the CMIO role in that context, and frame it?

You framed that well. A lot of the past decade has been spent on implementing and installing electronic health records, to the point that at least in the acute-care space, the penetration is greater than 90 percent. And the electronic health record is great at creating a one-on-one relationship, supporting that relationship, between the individual clinician and patient. What it’s not good at, though, is creating a many-to-one relationship, and you alluded to that in your reference to population health management.

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