Mostashari's departure leaves big shoes to fill

Aug. 20, 2013
But the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) must continue the fight to connect health IT to the needs of care transformation.

A crusader of electronic health records (EHR) and meaningful use (MU) is stepping down as National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after serving for two-plus years in that position and four years at the agency.

Dr. Farzad Mostashari, M.D., ScM, is credited, and rightfully so, for his efforts to drive health information technology adoption and exchange by establishing a new EHR certification and incentive program, creating and endorsing national standards, designing and setting up new grant programs, and spearheading support for the “Blue Button” concept that allows veterans, Medicare beneficiaries and now many others to download their electronic health records.

Mostashari leaves big shoes to fill with his departure. He set high standards for the integration of technology that are now helping lead the reform of healthcare. While there has been great progress under his leadership, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) must continue to connect health IT to the needs of care transformation, doubling down on population health, transitions of care and patient engagement.

Interoperability and exchange of data remain large critical pieces to accomplish as healthcare moves from volume- to value-based models of care. The next “big things” for the agency need to be a wash, rinse and repeat of the last two years, including continuing the public-private collaboration ONC and Mostashari have fostered. This includes open and transparent processes, open ears and eyes, and engaging providers and industry on how to move forward together in the evolving marketplace using the goals of the “Triple Aim” as the guiding light.

Healthcare faces many challenges and opportunities as more Americans gain access to the healthcare system in the coming months. With a provider shortage in rural communities and momentum building for improved quality and cost outcomes, care coordination supported by information technology is going to be more important than ever.

The need for ONC’s facilitator leadership role will become even more critical now that data is beginning to flow around the healthcare ecosystem. A whole new level of “opportunities” will come from data quality, data provenance and meta data issues that will certainly emerge as organizations and patients begin to routinely use external data in care delivery decision-making.

With Mostashari’s departure, the hope is that the ONC finds a visible and effective successor and doesn’t roll the agency into the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Today’s healthcare delivery system is forever changed by the work of Mostashari, his team and ONC and CMS collaboration with the private sector. Those of us in industry are extremely grateful and hope the mission to transform health business and care delivery supported by technology continues and accelerates.

About the author

Jim Hansen is the vice president of the Accountable Delivery System Institute (ADSI) at Lumeris. Follow the ADSI on Twitter @adsinst.

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