HHS Names Mostashari National Health IT Coordinator

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imageThe Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday named public health informatics specialist Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, to replace David Blumenthal, MD as national coordinator for health IT, effective immediately.

Mostashari had served as HHS’ deputy national coordinator for programs and policy since July 2009. It had been rumored since February that he would take over for Blumenthal, who is reportedly returning to Harvard Medical School, at least on an interim basis. However, the appointment is permanent, according to a spokesperson for HHS.

Prior to assuming his original post at HHS, Mostashari was assistant commissioner for the Primary Care Information Project at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He has publicly noted that one of his immediate goals will be to issue a final version of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, which will update the health care industry’s approach to IT privacy and security issues.

Mostashari deemed the importance of patient data privacy and security one of his top concerns when he testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging in the spring of 2010. During his testimony, he noted that “while there is evidence that certain telehealth applications can improve care and reduce certain unnecessary costs, more information is needed about ... how to assure privacy and security of health information shared through these technologies."

The Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which has been cooperating with Blumenthal and his team at the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to address the use of IT in the “ongoing transformation of health care”, is “pleased” with the appointment, according to H. Stephen Lieber, president and CEO. “HIMSS notes Dr. Mostashari’s leadership on a number of issues, including provider adoption and associated certification requirements, interoperability and health information exchange, and efforts to engage all communities in driving the innovation that is necessary for transforming healthcare,” Lieber says. “We are very comfortable with the directions he advocates.”