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5/2/2011
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National Health IT Coordinator Mostashari Outlines Challenges

Upon assuming Dr. David Blumenthal’s role at the helm of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, Dr. Farzad Mostashari discussed his vision for how IT adoption will transform healthcare, progress made so far, and the road ahead.

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Last month, Dr. Farzad Mostashari was named national coordinator for health IT, taking on the job from Dr. David Blumenthal, who held the post for two years and left to return to an academic role at Harvard Medical School.

Mostashari has the background to hit the ground running in his new job. During Blumenthal's tenure, Mostashari had been deputy national coordinator for programs and policy since July 2009. Prior to that, Mostashari had real work experience in employing health IT to improve public health. Before joining the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), Mostashari 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. Mostashari 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.

Mostashari spoke to InformationWeek Healthcare senior writer Marianne Kolbasuk McGee about his priorities as the new ONC leader and the challenges ahead as the country's healthcare system undergoes reform, and as U.S. healthcare providers move forward implementing health IT systems under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act's meaningful use programs.

McGee: As you take on the job as national coordinator and continue the work started by Dr. Blumenthal with the HITECH Act programs, what are your top three, most urgent priorities?

Mostashari: The most important thing to recognize is that there will be continuity with what we did before as I served as deputy with David [Blumenthal]. We have the right strategies, the right partners, and we're moving ahead, that's the biggest message. There are three issues for which the time is now and right. The first is implementation. Now is the time for implementation. We're in the deep part of implementation [of meaningful use stage 1] now and all our programs are hitting on all cylinders. Healthcare providers are in full swing and I think we have to really focus like a laser beam on excellence in execution. That's focus one.

The second focus area now is to link what we're doing to specific outcomes and goals for our healthcare system as a whole. We know that our healthcare system needs to be safer. We need to link what we're doing to the federal health policies that were recently announced, whether it's the National Strategy for Quality Improvement or the Partnership for Patients that calls for a 20% reduction in hospital readmissions and 40% reduction in hospital acquired conditions. That can only be done through the appropriate and I would argue meaningful use of health IT. Linking what we do with those particular goals is priority two.

Priority number three is putting the patient at the center of everything we do, including privacy and security. I think this is going to be the year where we really see an additional focus not only on doctors and hospitals and medical records but also on patients and their use of information and IT, and being able to speak to them about how this will impact them.

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