The news that National Coordinator for Health IT Dr. Farzad Mostashari will be leaving his post this fall rocked the industry yesterday, and immediately elicited an outpouring of praise for his efforts during his four-year tenure. Mostashari has become the face – or more accurately, the bowtie – of the resoundingly successful push for EHR adoption, the continuing quest for health IT interoperability, and the improved coordination of care for millions of patients.
“How much do I respect him? I have not worn a tie since Y2K, except for a bowtie last year in honor of Farzad,” wrote Beth Israel Medical Center CIO Dr. John Halamka on his blog yesterday. “As National Coordinator he brought energy, enthusiasm, and momentum to healthcare IT. He inspired, challenged, and influenced with informal authority, never a heavy hand. Hundreds of people volunteered to support his vision out of respect for his ideas and a sense that it was the right thing to do.”
“Farzad Mostashari has been a visionary, innovative leader who has done a tremendous amount to put our nation on a path to health care that is coordinated, efficient and patient- and family-centered,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, part of the Consumer Partnership for eHealth. “He understands how health IT supports the triple aim, and has skillfully navigated the complexities surrounding broad implementation of a balanced EHR program.”
In a letter announcing Mostashari’s departure to HHS staff, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius let the Department know that he will be leaving his post this fall. “During this time of great accomplishment, Farzad has been an important advisor to me and many of us across the Department. His expertise, enthusiasm and commitment to innovation and health IT will surely be missed,” she writes. Mostashari will stay in office until a replacement is found.
“Any CIO will tell you that implementing technology in the face of cultural resistance and process redesign is a monumental challenge,” wrote CHIME CEO Russel Branzell and CIO George T. Hickman in public comments on the move. “Today’s health delivery system is fundamentally different than it was five years ago when HITECH was passed, but it’s not because Congress simply passed a law. It’s because ONC and CMS, in partnership with the private sector, designed an implementation strategy that tried to align various stakeholders and make the spirit of HITECH a reality.”
While Mostashari was not the first National Coordinator, and will not be the last, his reign spanned a critical time in the EHR adoption process, and brought meaningful use to the top of the priority list for the healthcare industry. From his signature style to his impassioned presentations at conferences, Mostashari “was the implementer who turned the HITECH vision into policy outcomes by pure strength of will,” Halamka says. “Some people seek fame and fortune. Some just want to make the world a better place. In all the years I’ve worked with Farzad, I’ve never sensed any self-interest. He has been mission driven.”