My Interview with ONC Farzad Mostashari

ONC Mostashari at MGMA

By far the highlight of my time at MGMA was my twelve minutes of one-on-one with ONC Farzad Mostashari. There is no doubt Dr. Mostashari has the resume for this job but his charm, his genuine belief in the initiative, and his overall vision makes the package even better. If you have heard Mostashari speak before, you know he likens our EHR journey to moving up an escalator. He tells us we can’t afford to wait another five years to share health records. And he says we have to gain the trust of patients that we are handling their personal health information privately and securely.

When I asked how difficult he saw the challenges of moving from entry level stage 1 meaningful use to significantly higher impact of Stage 2, Mostashari reminds me that although stage 2 has not been formally defined, it is more “evolutionary than revolutionary”. He says that in “many ways stage 2 is a continuation”. As we are moving up the escalator it is “ambitious but achievable”. And the importance of this stage is that we are not “just collecting data but using it to help improve patient care”.

At the last Standards Committee meeting, ONC Mostashari urged them to push forward on standards for HIE saying that we can’t wait another five years. So how close are we? He says, “pretty close”. Standards and protocols are being utilized and recognized. The committee is “making enormous progress and are really under appreciated”. But when it comes to transport, it is just “not happening”. Providers are still printing, faxing, and scanning.

When I asked Dr. Mostashari how vendors can help the Health IT adoption initiative, his answer was right in line with what we were hearing from all the attendees at the conference. Will my vendor be there in the long run and to the end? Mostashari would like to see vendors focus on both the groups that matter, their existing customer base and their new customers. He believes the vendors who serve their existing client base best, will be the ones that come out well in the end. He says, “It is not about how good they are in the sales cycle or implementation cycle, it’s are they going to be there in the long run, to the end”.

Farzad has now been on the job for six months. No stranger to the department, he was the Deputy ONC under Blumenthal. I was still interested to see if there have been any surprises in his new position. He is pleasantly surprised at the positive reception to their new consumer site and its campaigns “Putting the I in Health IT” and “Pledge Now” to empower individuals to be partners in their health through Health IT. Before this, the ONC was focused on providers and vendors and the time was right now to include the consumer. Check out the site for yourselves and join the campaign.

Thank you Dr. Mostashari, I look forward to catching up with you again in the future.