Mostashari: ONC more than just a 'cheerleader' for EHRs

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, in his latest post to the Health IT Buzz blog, touts his office's efforts over the past year for increasing both awareness and implementation of healthcare information technology. Responding to an article published earlier this month in the Boston Globe that classifies the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's role primarily as a "cheerleader" for EHR implementation, Mostashari outlines several ways he says his agency goes beyond such a label.

For instance, he breaks down ONC's role into five categories: Meaningful Use, exchange and interoperability, the consumer space, patient safety and privacy and security. With regard to Meaningful Use, he points out how ONC serves as both a regulator that defines EHR policies and a support network for providers looking to successfully install and use such technology via Regional Extension Centers across the country.

"Through our … Federal Advisory Committees … we listen to you, synthesize the essence of your concerns/input/advice, and come up with practical solutions to achieve the most meaningful use of Meaningful Use," Mostashari says. "… To date, the RECs have worked with 132,842 primary care providers in more than 31,000 different practices, which represent approximately 42 percent of all the primary care providers in the United States.

Regarding exchange and interoperability, Mostashari talks about the amount of sheer manpower necessary to "develop and harmonize" standards for successful health information exchange. "Last year's meetings were held every 3.5 hours on average across the 10 standards and interoperability initiatives," he says.

In a recent interview with National Public Radio, Mostashari downplays the notion such interoperability is as easy as using an ATM card.

"People talk about the ATM, [but] that's seven data elements, and they charge you $2.50 for shipping those seven data fields over," Mostashari says. "We're talking thousands of data fields around things that are life and death."

Privacy and security, Mostashari concludes, is the one area that permeates across all of the others. "[We're] baking privacy and security into everything we do: regulations; RECs; guidance; convening; coordination," he says.

Still, Mostashari doesn't back away from the notion that, at least in part, ONC does have a role as a cheerleader for EHR efforts.

"[Last year] we challenged states to set ambitious targets for Meaningful Use acceleration," he says. "This year, we trumpeted the success of our State partners in the Meaningful Use Acceleration challenge, where a number of states … showed that they had made Meaningful Use a foundational building block for delivering better coordinated care, lowering health care costs, and improving patient health."

To learn more:
- read the Health IT Buzz post
- check out the NPR Shots post


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