Farzad Mostashari's announcement Tuesday that he will step down this fall as National Coordinator for Health IT surprised many in the health IT community, including several hospital CIOs who spoke to FierceHealthIT exclusively.
"I don't know for sure that anyone saw it coming or why," Roger Neal (right), vice president and CIO at 145-bed Duncan (Okla.) Regional Hospital, told FierceHealthIT.
"Farzad worked a lot to keep health IT in focus for a lot of those on the hill. He did a great job, but I can only imagine what that position was really like."
John Halamka, CIO at 631-bed Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told FierceHealthIT that while he, too, was caught off guard by the announcement, the timing is similar to that of prior National Coordinators: David Brailer served in the role from May 2004 to April 2006 and Robert Kolodner served from September 2006 through April 2009. David Blumenthal held the position from March 2009 until April 2011.
"National coordinators last about two years, so the timing is right," Halamka (left) said.
Both Halamka and Indranil Ganguly, vice president and CIO at CentraState Medical Center, a 282-bed hospital in Freehold, N.J., said they don't expect the announcement to impact any current federal efforts, even though the Meaningful Use program has been heavily scrutinized in recent weeks for having unrealistic expectations for Stage 2.
"Organizations are already implementing Meaningful Use Stage 2, ICD-10 and the Affordable Care Act changes, so there will be time for a seamless transition to another leader" Halamka said.
Added Ganguly (right): "I don't think any health IT efforts will be derailed by this departure, as long as they don't leave the post vacant for too long."
Potential replacements for Mostashari, Ganguly said, include Principal Deputy National Coordinator for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT David Muntz and Judy Murphy, ONC's Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy.
Ganguly pointed out, though, that the role traditionally has gone to a physician. Muntz's background is in information systems, having served as CIO for Baylor Health Care System prior to coming to ONC, while Murphy, a nurse, came to ONC in 2011 with more than 25 years of health informatics experience at Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care.
Halamka--who serves as co-chair of the Health IT Standards Committee that advises ONC on implementation specifications, and certification criteria for the electronic exchange and use of health information--also has been mentioned by some as a potential replacement. (Take our Survey: Who do you think will be the next National Coordinator for Health IT?)
Several organizations have weighed in with thoughts on Mostashari's departure, as well.
College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) CEO Russell Branzell and Board Chairman George Hickman said in a statement that Mostashari helped to lead providers "through the first gates of measured, meaningful use of electronic health records," calling the implementation of technology in the face of resistance a "monumental challenge."
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Executive Vice President Carla Smith, meanwhile, called Mostashari's achievements "remarkable," saying that because of his leadership, "patient care is improving as providers and hospitals are implementing health IT."
For more information:
- read the CHIME statement
- here's the HIMSS statement
- take our survey on who will be the next National Coordinator