(l to r): Keith Boone, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, Dr. Nick van Terheyden

Like many in the health IT industry, I was saddened by the announcement that Dr. Farzad Mostashari was retiring.  As famed football legend Vince Lombardi said, “The strength of the group is the strength of the leaders.”  And, for the healthcare technology community, Dr. Mostashari has been a great leader.

Having joined the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) in 2009, Dr. Mostashari has had a huge positive impact on the implementation, development and overall perception of health IT.  He was personally impacted by the state of healthcare when his mother was admitted to the hospital for arrhythmias, and, after having asked for the paper chart, admitted, “I couldn’t even read the cardiology consult’s name.”  This difficult situation likely galvanized his vision as he took on the daunting tasks demanded by his role at the ONC.  And, while it is hard to pick individual highlights from such an impressive record, here is my take on a few of Dr. Mostashari’s top achievements from his time in office:

  1. Drove the successful adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) through stage 1 of the Meaningful Use program.
  2. Championed patient engagement, even stating: “We cannot have it be profitable to hoard patient information.”
  3. Piloted Meaningful Use stage 2 criteria, which built on the success of stage 1, and pushed towards interoperability – including standards for data sharing – quality improvement and quality measures, which all also reinforced patient engagement.

The future of health technology adoption will not be an easy one.  There will be obstacles and pushback, so it will be critical to keep in mind what the end goal really is and always has been to improve patient care.  With that being said, to the lucky individual taking the reins, I offer some suggested areas of focus:

  1. Continue the engaged and inclusive discussion with all constituents, making social media a central part of your strategy both for the ONC and also for the healthcare industry.
  2. A friend once said to me: “You’ve put us on the horse, you might as well give us the ride.” The same can be said of payment reform, which must shift from quantity-based to quality-based payment.
  3. Keep patient engagement front and center.  As I have stated many times: when a doctor and patient are in a room, there is nobody, I repeat nobody, more interested in successful outcomes than the patient. Give them the tools and make them part of the solution.
  4. Above all, have fun. I made this point at every soccer practice when I was a coach. If you aren’t having fun, there is little incentive to do well or, for that matter, to do anything at all.  Personally, I am constantly amazed at the great fortune that finds me at this intersection of medicine and technology.

Without a doubt, Dr. Mostashari will be missed and his commitment to improving healthcare won’t soon be forgotten.  He has set the stage for a new era of health data exchange and better patient-physician communication – all of which will improve patient care.  I, for one, am excited to see what the future of health IT holds.  So, in closing, it is in Dr. Mostashari’s honor, that I offer this 21 Bow Tie Salute.

To read Dr. Nick’s full blog post, visit Voice of the Doctor.

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Dr. Nick van Terheyden

About Dr. Nick van Terheyden

This is a contributed post by Dr. Nick van Terheyden. As a pioneering creator in the evolution of healthcare technology, he brings a distinctive blend of medical practitioner and business strategist to the realm of health IT. To see more content like this, visit the Healthcare section of the blog.