Mostashari: Patient-centered care is not just a motto

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari was nothing if not energetic at last week's Consumer Health IT Summit in Washington, D.C. Two initiatives--one involving patients getting direct access to lab results, and a second regarding the creation of privacy notices for the various personal health record systems available--were announced at the event, both of which complement the ONC's newly released Strategic Plan. 

Mostashari also touted the importance of two announced pledges that are aiding the government's health IT push: a "Data Holder's Pledge" in which those who manage health data promise to make obtaining that information easier for patients and providers; and a "Non-Data Holder's Pledge," for those who don't manage such information, but still can influence and educate consumers.

FierceHealthIT caught up with Mostashari briefly to hear more about the initiatives. 

FierceHealthIT: How important are these initiatives to maintaining the momentum built up for health IT? 

Mostashari: You know, I think they're enablers. The big picture is that there's already movement out there. There's already this great river flowing. People are getting more access to information in all aspects of their daily lives, and having technology helps them manage that. In many ways, it's good to be on the side of history. And there is this trend, this inevitable progression. I think the question for us is 'Can we accelerate it? Can we help guide it? Can we protect the privacy and security as we do so, and just remove any barriers and provide that spark to a fire that is already fueled?'

FierceHealthIT: What makes continued cooperation between government and private industry for health IT so vital?

Mostashari: I think that's what we want. We understand that this is a public-private partnership in the best sense of the word. And it's more private than public. All we can do is give visibility to it and make sure that we do our part in this. We have a part. Government has a part. It's a limited part, but we have to do our limited role with energy, with commitment and focus. 

FierceHealthIT: What is the long-term key to making these IT initiatives stick? 

Mostashari: I think what we heard was that not only is sharing information with the patient the patient's legal right and therefore the provider's legal responsibility, not only is it making it easy for that to happen a key part of Meaningful Use and the health IT incentive program, but it's actually the right thing to do. And engaging patients is really the key to letting the patient help. 

Patient-centered care is not just a motto, it actually is a pattern of behavior that starts with truly engaging patients as partners in their own care. I think from the time I graduated medical school 20 years ago, there has been an absolute sea change in attitudes in medicine toward how we think of our role in acting in the patient's best interest. It used to be that we thought acting in the patient's best interest was much more of a paternalistic exercise. But more and more [providers] realize that acting in a patient's best interest means engaging the patient, sharing decision making with the patient, giving them information that they want, at their pace, at their request. It doesn't mean forcing it on anybody, but it means that if there's a patient who wants their information, by gosh, let's give it to them.

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