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ONC’s Mostashari on EHR Adoption and Business Opportunities for Health IT Firms

ONC Director Farzad Mostashari, Photo: hhs.gov

Director of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, the health agency’s point man for electronic health records — a key technology and policy push of the Obama administration.

Mostashari joined the agency in 2009 and was elevated to ONC director earlier this spring when former director David Blumenthal announced he would return to Harvard Medical School.

He recently sat down with Kaiser Health News to discuss what’s next for his role and for EHR adoption.

As for the ONC’s role, Mostashari, who previously served as an assistant commissioner of the the New York City Health and Mental Hygiene Department, prescribed more of the same.

“We have to keep doing what we have been doing,” he said, citing a “general consensus” that the office is making headway on its strategy. “In the life cycle of this activity, we are moving into an intense stage of implementation and execution,” he added. “It is time to roll up our sleeves and make the actual changes to the healthcare system that are needed.”

Kaiser Health News pointed out the rivers of cash spent on nudging health care providers to begin implementing EHR systems — a total of $27 billion in all.

Even so, the cost for individual doctors and healthcare providers to make the digital switch can be — or seem — prohibitive.

Mostashari said estimates vary, but overall costs are coming down as the health IT market of solutions expands. There are now 500 different software products that meet ONC’s certification and the agency is now focused on helping providers choose the best options.

It all adds up to a possible booming opportunity for tech companies.

“What one entrepreneur told me was “data is oxygen” and there is a lot more oxygen in the environment now,” Mostashari said. Once providers have implemented [EHR] and medications and lab results have been stored electronically, there are all kinds of business opportunities for population health management, business intelligence and analytics, for consumer tools for reaching out to patients with reminders for all sorts of innovative uses of the data and turn it into actionable information.”

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