Mostashari on Meaningful Use: It's a long road, but we have a roadmap

A delicate balance needs to be struck between the urgency to modernize the U.S. healthcare system and the pace of change that can be absorbed by both providers and IT vendors, National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari said at a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., this morning focusing on if Meaningful Use is delivering meaningful results. Mostashari said that while he thought meeting Meaningful Use was meant to be challenging, substantial progress has been made to date with regard to interoperability.

"This is a long road," Mostashari said. "But we have a roadmap, and we have, through Meaningful Use, a phased approach to being able to bring the floor up and create infrastructure in stage after stage after stage to help increase that journey toward interoperability."

Mostashari was joined as a witness at the hearing--presided over by members of the House subcommittee on technology and innovation--by Marc Probst, CIO of Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare; Charles Romine, director of the information technology laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Medicity Senior Vice President Rebecca Little; and Willa Fields, a professor with San Diego State University's school of nursing.

Probst, like Mostashari, said he thought that progress has been made regarding interoperability. He talked about the importance of creating baseline standards, as well, saying that groups like HL7 and DICOM have different rationales for supporting varying kinds of standards, as opposed to one universal standard.

"We need basic, core, foundational IT standards," Probst said. "If those are put in place, then innovation happens. Then you have Internet kind of innovation that can occur ubiquitously across large groups of people."

Several other questions seeking justification of the program were raised by committee members, including one about the return on investment of workforce training considering that health information exchanges, so far, have avoided hiring graduates of such programs. While Mostashari said that increased efforts were being made to properly prepare such students for the working world, Fields pointed out that the survey did not take into account students trained via the program materials who did not go through official federal training programs.

"I personally use some of the slides that have been posted to teach my graduate students in informatics and nursing. Those [students] aren't captured in the numbers," Fields said. "I then have up to date information that I can incorporate into my classes, which make the graduate students in nursing more capable of taking these complex HIE jobs."

To learn more:
- here's an overview of the hearing
- here's Mostashari's written testimony
- here's Probst's written testimony
- here's Fields' written testimony
- read Rep. Ben Quayle's (R-Ariz.) opening statement