Since the introduction of LexisNexis, it’s been an open question in the mind of many prominent policymakers whether they’ll be remembered for their substantive accomplishments, or for the number and variety of soundbites they managed to feed to the ever-hungry media.
Few would suggest that Farzad Mostashari, MD, the soon-departing director of ONC, doesn’t have more than his share of very real milestones marking his tenure. And he’s also had a knack for pitching his ideas in ways that are succinct, sticky (in that they stick in one’s memory), and often entertaining.
What follows, then, with no thought toward their level of memorable-ness, are 10 highlights from Mostashari’s time at the helm of ONC.
1. "I refuse to speak of HIE as a noun. HIE is a verb."
In a press conference after his HIMSS12 keynote address, Mostashari insisted that he did not care about any specific form of HIE. Rather, he just wanted to make sure that HI, regardless of its source and process of transmission, was successfully E’d.
2. "We’re on the right track to make meaningful use of meaningful use."
At that same conference, in his actual keynote, Mostashari pointed to the steady pace of EHR implementation, but he noted that the ultimate goal lay beyond just storing and sharing information electronically.
3 . “We've made more progress with EHRs in the past 2 years then we have in 20."
Of course, no contemporary collection of quotable quotes can be considered complete without at least one that was flung out via Twitter. This one, from Twitter, rounds out the selections from HIMSS12 in Las Vegas.
4. "We cannot have it be profitable to hoard patient information."
After he announced his resignation, Mostashari offered some remarks on a CMS/ONC webinar. Among them was this long-held contention about the long-term necessity for the accessibility of patient information.
5. "Sometimes regulations don't stifle innovation."
Speaking on a panel this past spring, Mostashari took on the challenge of arguing that a balance can indeed be found between allowing the space for innovation in the health IT sector, while also ensuring an adequate regulatory structure to keep stakeholders on track and moving forward.
6. “It’s both bottom up and top down.”
Directionally challenged? No, rather, in an interview prior to HIMSS12, Mostashari was once again pointing to the need for change generated on the ground level but expedited with assistance from the federal government.
7. “Sell people what they want to buy.”
Explaining with his trademark enthusiasm during a recent presentation on the progress of the Beacon Communities program, Mostashari argued that the most effective and easiest to use form of information exchange would also be the one most successfully pitched to stakeholders.
8. “We haven’t slain all those dragons just yet, but we sure have made a dent."
Not surprisingly, many people are asking the outgoing director how much progress he’s overseen during his tenure. Speaking as the outgoing white knight of EHRs, Mostashari commented on how quickly the digital transition has taken place over the last four years.
9. “Once you close a paper file it's dead. You’re not able to move it or learn from it.”
While some might quibble with the finality with which Mostashari described the cumbersomeness of using paper-bound information, there’s no doubt the image drives home the point that digital information, unlike writing on paper, can be transferred, used and re-transferred with just the push of a couple buttons.
10. “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”
OK, this one’s not a Mostashari original. The observation was first offered up by the writer, primarily of so-called cyberpunk science fiction, William F. Gibson. But, not surprisingly, Mostashari has used it to describe his contention that the tools are available and the time is now to make health IT what, not so long ago, paper records were: the standard, ubiquitous way of recording and storing health information.
[See also: Mostashari to step down as ONC chief.]