Monday, April 11, 2011

Hail to the New ONC Chief

On Friday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that Dr. Farzad Mostashari will be the next National Coordinator:

"I’m very pleased to announce that Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM will become the new National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) effective today. Dr. Mostashari joined ONC in July 2009 and serves as Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy. Previously, he served at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as Assistant Commissioner for the Primary Care Information Project, where he facilitated the adoption of prevention-oriented health information technology by over 1,500 providers in underserved communities. Dr. Mostashari also led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded NYC Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics, and an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality-funded project focused on quality measurement at the point of care. He is a graduate of Harvard College, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Yale School of Medicine, and conducted his training in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Farzad has been a critical member of the leadership team at ONC, and I look forward to continuing to work with him in this new capacity as he builds on the incredible progress made in the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology during David Blumenthal’s tenure."

I agree that Farzad is the logical choice to follow David Blumenthal.

What can we expect from Farzad?

David Blumenthal's role was akin to a startup CEO.  He had a small staff, $2 billion dollars to spend quickly/wisely, and a bold vision to improve healthcare quality/safety/efficiency using IT.

Now that the ONC staff is hired, the initial regulations are written, and the money is allocated, Farzad must evolve vision and startup into implementation and operations.

ONC has a very broad portfolio at the moment including

*Achieving EHR adoption goals by leveraging Regional Extension Centers
*Accelerating health information exchange (HIE) by providing oversight of state HIE plans
*Ensuring the success of the Beacon Communities
*Completing the standards and certification regulations needed for Stage 2 and Stage 3
*Supporting the policy goals of HIPAA, ARRA/HITECH, and Healthcare Reform through continued work by the Federal Advisory Committees working for ONC

Farzad must make midcourse corrections as needed to manage these projects to completion.

Can he do it?   Absolutely.

When the EHR marketplace did not offer the features that New York City needed to measure quality and improve population health, he motivated the industry to change the EHRs.    For example, Farzad greatly influenced the evolution of eClinicalWorks version 7 into version 8.

When the marketplace did not offer standards-based quality registries, he organized the PopHealth  initiative to transform CCRs and CCDs into quality metrics.  Given Farzad's background and public health orientation, we'll likely see an enhanced ONC focus on population health.

During his tenure as National Coordinator I predict he'll oversee the completion of blueprints for a true Nationwide Health Information Network including certificate management, provider directories, patient matching algorithms, PCAST-inspired metadata envelopes, and transport for query/response transactions (resolving the REST v. SOAP debate).

Yes, the work ahead will be hard.   However, the path forward for Meaningful Use is clear.   With resources and sound project management, we can do anything.

As a next step for the HIT Standards Committee, ONC staff will work with Jon Perlin and I to create a Gantt chart of everything we must do so we'll have monthly milestones and deadlines to guide us.

Good luck Farzad, we're here to support you.

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