Health IT Czar on Making Meaningful Use 'Meaningful'

Outgoing ONC Chief Farzad Mostashari offers advice to clinicians during an interview with Eric Topol

; Farzad Mostashari, MD


September 04, 2013

In This Article

At the ONC: An 'Intense Job'

Dr. Topol: Now, the ONC has a reputation, or a branding, as the Office of No Christmas.

Dr. Mostashari: Yes, Office of No Christmas.

Dr. Topol: What does that mean?

Dr. Mostashari: Well, we pushed pretty hard. We pushed pretty hard.

Dr. Topol: So, no such thing as a holiday.

Dr. Mostashari: That is what it felt like -- that there is this incredible urgency. You have a day, a week, a month, and pretty soon the opportunity to make a difference is gone.

Dr. Topol: Was that a tough part, feeling less engaged with your family because it's just such a hard job?

Dr. Mostashari: It is an intense job. But it is a privilege too. That is why people do this. They take time out of whatever they are doing, their careers, to say, "I am going to do some public service. It is going to be intense. We are going to make a difference."

Dr. Topol: Did you have much intersection with President Obama or [Health and Human Services Secretary] Kathleen Sebelius along the way?

Dr. Mostashari: Not so much with the President, but the Secretary is amazing. In retrospect, if there is one thing I would do more of, it is talk to her more about the details of what we are doing, because she has amazing judgment and she is a great boss.

The Politicization of Healthcare

Dr. Topol: At times I have been concerned about the politicization of healthcare, especially with Plan B and all of that kind of stuff. Overall, though, you have already mentioned the remarkable progress made in your charge. I know you have been hard-plugging at it, but it shows, and some people thought it couldn't be done.

Dr. Mostashari: One of the things that has really helped is that it is a bipartisan, nonpartisan job, and having better information makes markets tick. It makes us better policymakers, and we really have continued to enjoy support from across the aisle. I testified for the Senate Finance Committee and Energy and Commerce Committees, and people want to help. I feel very, very fortunate, and I hope that we can continue that spirit going forward.


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