In the view of some health IT observers, the recent appointment of Farzad Mostashari, MD (pictured), to the role of national coordinator of health information technology as a replacement for outgoing coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal (which athenahealth's Jonathan Bush correctly predicted at HIMSS11 in February) seems calculated to provide continuity for the government's blossoming health IT program. H. Stephen Lieber, president and CEO of HIMSS, for example, said in a statement that his organization recognizes Mostashari's "leadership on a number of issues, including provider [EHR] adoption and associated certification requirements, interoperability and health information exchange, and efforts to engage all communities in driving the innovation that is necessary for transforming healthcare, and we are very comfortable with the directions he advocates."
Before joining ONC, Mostashari--who joined the ONC in 2009 as deputy national coordinator for health programs and policy--was assistant commissioner for the New York City Health and Mental Hygiene Department's primary care information project. In that capacity, he helped more than 1,500 providers in underserved communities adopt EHRs and other health IT tools.
Mostashari is a recognized expert on disease outbreak investigation and has helped develop electronic tools for disease surveillance. He also established the Bureau of Epidemiological Services for the New York City Health and Mental Hygiene Department. Prior to that, he held positions in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
The new ONC chief's background in epidemiology sets him apart from his predecessors, and also underlines an aspect of the meaningful use criteria that is likely to become more important in future years: public health reporting. Recently, ONC's parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, allocated $137 million for public health infrastructure, including new technology and staff training.
While most physician practices and hospitals still don't have a way to exchange data online with public health agencies, that may be changing with the advent of the Direct Project, a standard national protocol for secure clinical messaging.