Mostashari previously was deputy national coordinator for programs and policy at the ONC. He joined the ONC in July 2009, according to the ONC's website.
Blumenthal announced in February that he would step down from his post as national coordinator for health IT to return to Harvard University, where he had served as a healthcare researcher.
Before joining the ONC, Mostashari worked for the New York City Health and Mental Hygiene Department as assistant commissioner for the primary-care information project, according to the ONC's website. He also established the department's bureau of epidemiology services.
"Farzad's experience in promoting adoption and use of EHRs among providers, particularly in underserved areas, addresses a critical need," said Dr. Harry Greenspun, Dell's chief medical officer, who applauded Mostashari's appointment.
"It's a good pick, but I'd go forward and say it's the right pick and the best pick,” said Dr. Peter Basch, medical director for electronic health records and health IT policy at MedStar Health, Columbia, Md., and a volunteer adviser to ONC, serving on three work groups of the federally chartered Health IT Policy Committee. Basch said all three previous ONC leaders have been the right men for the job at that time and that this is the time for a leader who can implement programs.
"What we don't need now is someone to reconceptualize health IT," he said. "We've got a good plan. What we need now is a closer."
Mostashari assumes his new role with "credibility within the provider community," Basch said.
"I think in the next couple of years under his leadership we could see a very different landscape," he said. "What we've seen with the early adopters we'll see in the mainstream."
A statement on the website of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society praises Mostashari for his "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."
Adding to the chorus in an e-mail was Dr. John Halamka, chief information officer for Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston. Halamka also serves as vice chairman of the Health Information Technology Standards Committee, an ONC advisory panel.
"Farzad's combination of policy knowledge, familiarity with the needs of small providers and passion for improving health with IT tools will serve the country well," Halamka said. "From personal experience, I know that his vision for creating decision-support systems and data-driven quality improvement resulted in improvements to several EHR products and innovations," he added, citing the ONC's open-source PopHealth project to help automate the reporting of clinical quality measures as one example.
"I think he's the right guy," said Dr. William Bria, chief medical information officer at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa, Fla., and president of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems.
Mostashari addressed the AMDIS annual meeting in California last July and then "fielded questions and reacted for over an hour," Bria recalled. "You don't do that if you don't know your business or you're afraid and want to control people. I think he's a problem-solver, someone who brings people together. God knows we need that kind of facilitative, collaborative approach with all that's going on in healthcare right now."
In a recent informal poll of Modern Healthcare readers about who should be the next head of the ONC, Mostashari garnered 3.8% of the vote (28 out of 738 votes), which placed him in a tie for sixth with Andrew Wiesenthal, associate executive director of the Permanente Federation. Jessica Kahn, technical director for health IT for Medicaid at the CMS, was No. 1 in the poll with 20.3% of readers' votes.
Watch Modern Healthcare reporter Joseph Conn's video interview with Mostashari from the 2011 HIMSS annual conference and exhibition.