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ONC's Mostashari: "Now It's Time For Us to Act"

May 13, 2011
by Mark Hagland
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National Coordinator shares a message of optimism and urgency at the HCI Executive Summit, lays out ONC priorities

Expressing the fervor of a political leader on the campaign trail, Farzad Mostashari, M.D., the federal National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, told an assembled audience at the Healthcare Informatics Executive Summit being held at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco on Thursday, May 12 that “Now is the time to act,” urging audience members to press forward with alacrity to meet the requirements of meaningful use, while celebrating recent milestones.

In an appearance exclusive to the HCI Executive Summit, Mostashari, who on April 8 was promoted to head the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT, shared his perspectives on the meaningful use journey and related topics, with an audience of healthcare IT leaders. Reviewing some of the recent developments in MU, Mostashari noted a number of positive recent developments related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act/Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (ARRA-HITECH), and used the opportunity to urge healthcare leaders forward towards the acceleration of work towards automation and technology development.

Indeed, Mostashari said, he saw continuity and innovation as two sides of the same coin, particularly with regard to recent events at ONC, including his own elevation to the National Coordinator post. “I think partly the reason I was selected was that the administration and the provider community felt that we should continue with the direction we had been on, and that what people really needed was some continuity and predictability in terms of what’s going to happen,” he told HCI Executive Summit participants. “And I think that is the big picture—that we’re going to have continuity.”

At the same time, Mostashari went on to tell his audience, “We can never stand still in health IT—things are changing all the time in health IT, and things are changing all the time in the world. And I would propose to you that the time is now for implementation. After all the hollering is over and the dust is settling, what does all this mean? Now it’s time for us to act. Let’s get moving. And let’s get implemented.”

One happy milestone, Mostashari noted, was the date of April 18, which marked the first day on which hospital organizations and physicians could attest to having met the requirements of Stage 1 of meaningful use under HITECH. Not only was that date important in its own right as a milestone of accomplishment, he said, but he cited as also important the fact that now that some hospitals and physicians have attested, they should soon be receiving their first MU stimulus checks. And that, he said, means that the federal government will have demonstrated that the promise of meaningful use was a true one.

Farzad Mostashari, M.D. gives keynote address at HCI Executive Summit

“Beginning last month, April 18, we saw the first attestations,” Mostashari noted. “And we’re going to have this month, payments for meaningful use. It’s not going to be months and months and months before people even know whether they qualified; the vast, vast majority of folks who attempted to attest for meaningful use will get payments within a month,” he noted. “It’s amazing.”

Speaking more broadly, Mostashari said he believes that as electronic health record (EHR) implementations accelerate under the push towards meaningful use, healthcare performance improvement and information technology development will increasingly reinforce and enhance each other. “I think we’re starting to catch a virtuous cycle, where the information systems support things like population health management and quality improvement,” he said, adding that “We’re advancing by 10 percent a year on EHR implementation. And we’re shortly about to reach a tipping point, where there’s a business case for adoption,” such as when individual physicians will at some point soon refuse to share referral channels with doctors who resist implementing EHRs, as it will eventually become a financial burden for physicians when their physician colleagues burden them with non-automated tasks to perform.