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Mostashari at the Helm

April 8, 2011
by Mark Hagland
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CIOs and other healthcare IT leaders praise the continuity of the selection of the new national coordinator for HIT

As news of the elevation of Farzad Mostashari, M.D., who had been deputy national coordinator, programs and policy, to the position of national coordinator for health information technology at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), spread across the industry, CIOs and other healthcare IT leaders reacted with a combination of expressions of praise and relative optimism, and clear statements as to what kinds of leadership they would like Mostashari to show in the new role. On Friday, April 8, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that Mostashari would take over immediately for David Blumenthal, M.D., who is returning to his academic position at Harvard University.

Mostashari has of course had a lower profile than has Blumenthal, but many were optimistic about his elevation to the top ONC role, applauding both the continuity being demonstrated by his elevation to the post, and the fact that he is a physician. Tina Buop, CIO of clinical integration, at Muir Medical Group, Walnut Creek, Calif., said, “I haven’t met Dr. Mostashari yet, but what I look forward to is that he was the deputy prior. ONC is still relatively new, and he’s had the best perspective working with David Blumenthal up to now. Continuity within ONC is imperative right now, and having this logical evolution into that position makes sense,” Buop added. “I’m ecstatic about his appointment because the ONC will not have to undergo a “restart” or “reboot.” She also praised ONC’s choice of another physician at its helm.

Among those who have met and interacted with him, Mostashari received high marks. "I am very pleased about the choice,” said David Muntz, senior vice president and CIO of the Dallas-based Baylor Health Care System. “Dr. Mostashari has always been a great advocate for each party during the development of regulations. I think it's because he's such a good, active listener. Though he cannot do all that we've asked of him, he has always demonstrated an understanding of the very complex issues and has openly and clearly shared the rationale behind choices and decisions. During the period of speculation before the announcement, he was always mentioned first as the most likely successor, and appropriately so."

And, said Charles E. (Chuck) Christian, CIO at Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Ind., “I’ve had the pleasure of being on several calls and face-to-face meetings with Dr. Mostashari, and I’ve always found him to be very engaged, intelligent, committed to getting it right, and more than willing to listen to differing points of view and well thought out concerns. If I had been given an opportunity to provide input, he would have been my first choice.”

“Dr. Mostashari is competent, committed, creative, and energetic,” said Bill Spooner, senior vice president and CIO at Sharp Healthcare, the integrated health system based in San Diego. “While a leader experienced in mainstream healthcare might have offered a broader perspective to the opportunities and challenges of EHR adoption, Dr. Mostashari brings the continuity necessary to ensure continued progress in advancing the meaningful use definitions and incentives.”

“I think he’s the right person at the right time,” said Sharon Canner, senior director of advocacy programs at the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). “He has the rapport, the expertise, and the knowledge to hit the ground running.”

And George Reynolds, M.D., vice president and CIO/CMIO at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Omaha, agreed, saying, “My take is that Farzad is an excellent choice. He has been very accessible and open to the input—particularly with CMIOs as well as with CIOs. His appointment also offers a sense of continuity, and it signals—I hope—a commitment to the ONC’s current roadmap for HIT. While there is an unlimited array of opinions as to how the ONC could do its job better,” Reynolds added, “there is a great deal to be said for having a clear, consistent, and well-communicated message.”

Calls for clarity, policy resolution
While all those interviewed for this article praised the continuity involved in the Mostashari appointment, they also expressed wishes for the resolution of numerous issues. Muir Medical Group’s Buop said, “I see three things really needing to be addressed. One is his role in helping support the sustainability of the PPACA bill [the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or healthcare reform], because you see meaningful use sprinkled throughout the bill; and I’d like to have him publicly comment on his position on that. Second,” she said, “ I’m hoping he’ll bring a refreshing light into the vision of where healthcare IT needs to go. Dr. Blumenthal started the vision, but then privacy and security, for example, fell prey to what I call ‘progressive regression,’ meaning requiring patient permission for every single facet of things. And I want to hear his overarching vision for healthcare IT, apart from any particular reform that’s been put in place.”

Sharp HealthCare’s Spooner commented that “I hope [Mostashari] will direct his efforts to examining the experience of our community-based hospitals and physicians, to make certain that stages two and three of meaningful use are aggressive, but attainable for them.”


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