ONC's Mostashari to Step Down

Led HITECH Act Implementation Efforts
ONC's Mostashari to Step Down

Farzad Mostashari, M.D., who has championed programs of the HITECH Act over the last two years as national coordinator for health IT, announced Aug. 6 that he will be leaving his post in the fall.

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"It is difficult for me to announce that I am leaving," he said in an e-mail to staff members. "I don't know what I will be doing after I leave public service, but be assured that I will be by your side as we continue to battle for healthcare transformation, cheering you on."

Shortly after Mostashari sent his e-mail to his staff on Aug. 6, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the larger HHS staff of his plans in her own e-mail.

Under his leadership, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, a unit of HHS, developed rules for the HITECH Act electronic health record incentive program, including privacy and security guidelines.

Mostashari is the fourth leader at ONC, which was created by President George W. Bush in 2004 when he set the goal for most Americans to have an electronic health record by 2014. ONC leaders have generally each stayed in the top spot only about two years.

Before being named national coordinator in April 2011, Mostashari had worked at ONC as deputy coordinator under his predecessor, David Blumenthal, for two years.

"During [Mostashari's] tenure, ONC has been at the forefront of designing and implementing a number of initiatives to promote the adoption of health IT among health care providers," Sebelius wrote.

"Farzad has seen through the successful design and implementation of ONC's HITECH programs, which provide health IT training and guidance to communities and providers; linked the meaningful use of electronic health records to population health goals; and laid a strong foundation for increasing the interoperability of health records - all while ensuring the ultimate focus remains on patients and their families," she wrote. "This critical work has not only brought about important improvements in the business of healthcare, but also has helped providers better coordinate care, which can improve patients' health while saving money at the same time."

In his e-mail to ONC staff, Mostashari wrote that when he joined ONC, "this office had a daunting task ahead of it. Working backwards from the outcomes we hoped to enable, we had to define 'meaningful use' of electronic health records, establish a new certification program, endorse national standards, design and set up a slew of new grant programs to assist in health IT adoption, exchange, workforce, research and privacy."

In addition, he listed a number of accomplishments of ONC in the last four years, including security and privacy related projects such as the Direct Project for secure messaging and providing consumers with secure access to their health data through the work on the Blue Button project.

"We gradually assembled within ONC a microcosm of the diverse and passionate health IT community itself. Implementers, doctors and nurses, software developers and project managers, privacy experts, proud standards geeks, patient advocates, public health workers, researchers and data analysts. And we added strength, integrity and resilience by recruiting a core of civil servants who are dedicated to lifelong public service," he wrote.

"Nationwide, adoption of health records has tripled in doctor's offices and increased five-fold or more in hospitals. Over half of prescriptions are now electronic. New functionalities essential for population health management are increasingly available and used. National standards and protocols for information exchange and interoperability are being implemented throughout the industry.

"Over the next 12 months we will see a great democratization of health information as individuals become empowered to download their own health information, and venture capital investment in new tools to help us manage our own health and healthcare are skyrocketing. Meanwhile, hospital readmissions are dropping, healthcare cost inflation is at historic lows and the movement toward payment that rewards quality and value is gaining speed.

"There are formidable challenges still ahead for our community, and for ONC. But none more difficult than what we have already accomplished. In these difficult and challenging times, your work gives us hope that we can still do big things as a country. That government and the private sector working together can do what neither can do alone. We have been pioneers in a new landscape, but that landscape is one changed for ever, and for better."

About the Author

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Executive Editor, HealthcareInfoSecurity, ISMG

McGee is executive editor of Information Security Media Group's HealthcareInfoSecurity.com media site. She has about 30 years of IT journalism experience, with a focus on healthcare information technology issues for more than 15 years. Before joining ISMG in 2012, she was a reporter at InformationWeek magazine and news site and played a lead role in the launch of InformationWeek's healthcare IT media site.

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