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Mostashari Named ONC Chief

His experience as ONC deputy national coordinator for programs and policy and in the New York City Department of Health should help Mostashari promote the use of health IT.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday named public-health informatics specialist Dr. Farzad Mostashari to replace Dr. David Blumenthal as national coordinator for health information technology. The move is effective immediately.

Mostashari had been deputy national coordinator for programs and policy since July 2009. It had been rumored since February that he would take over the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at least on an interim basis when Blumenthal returned to Harvard Medical School. An ONC spokesman confirms that this appointment is permanent, though HHS otherwise is not saying much publicly.

"I'm glad they decided not to go with an interim," Brian Ahier, health IT evangelist for information systems at Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles, Ore., said in an interview. "I think it's really important for the continuity of all the projects underway for that to be settled."

Mostashari has a background in employing health IT to improve public health. Prior to joining ONC, he led the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Primary Care Information Project, which helped more than 1,500 providers adopt health IT to encourage preventive care in underserved neighborhoods. He also was the founding head of the New York City health department's Bureau of Epidemiology Services and helped the city develop a real-time electronic disease surveillance system, according to his official biography.

Ahier, who chairs technology workgroup of Oregon's Health Information Technology Oversight Council likes the fact that Mostashari has experience implementing electronic health records. "I think Dr. Mostashari is the perfect person for this position," Ahier said. "I think you've got the right leader in the right place at the right time."

According to Ahier, Blumenthal, with more of an academic background, successfully set the stage for widespread EHR adoption under the federal "meaningful use" incentive program and created a clear direction for ONC. Now it is time for someone to lead the actual implementation. Mostashari's "experience is going to bode well for this next phase of the rollout," Ahier said.

Blumenthal announced in early February that he would step down in the spring and return to his academic post in Boston, reportedly so he could keep his tenure. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that Blumenthal originally agreed to serve as national coordinator for just two years.

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