Reactions from Mostashari's peers in the physician informatics community combined gratitude and concern about the future of the federal HIT program.
“It's bad news,” said Dr. William Bria, president of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems, a professional association for physician informaticists. “It never would be a good time for Farzad to step down over the next 10 years.”
Each of Mostashari's three predecessors at ONC brought unique combinations of skills to the job, and Mostashari was no exception, according to Bria.
“He was a physician who translated the spirit of the profession into public health in one of the most challenging environments in the country,” Bria said. “He knew how to absorb the blows of furious colleagues and could smile and shake their hands and win them over with his good spirit and his good soul. You didn't believe he was trying to push you over as a government official. He knew that the outcome was worth the suffering. I think we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. It's going to be a hell of a job trying to find someone that good to replace him.”
“I think Farzad has done a very good job,” said Dr. Kevin Fickenscher, president and CEO of the American Medical Informatics Association. “He's taken us through this initial period of meaningful use, which has been controversial. There have been lots of discussions around the direction we were taking. I think Farzad has done a good job of listening and setting a sense of direction. Fifteen years ago, a lot of this was theory and ideas. The systems weren't at a point that we could affectively deploy them in the way we are today. He's taken it from sort of the bench to the application.”
Fickenscher said he's thankful that Mostashari is announcing his departure in advance, giving the ONC and the industry time for a smooth transition, which also occurred with previous ONC leaders.
“There are some big issues in front of us,” Fickenscher said. “We absolutely need to pursue effective interoperability. We need to pursue standards—not new standards but standards that we have—so that they're consistent across organizations. Another big issue is usability.”
“What a remarkable guy he's been in both his public health perspective and his tireless pursuit of patient and family engagement,” said Dr. John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who has served as vice-chairman of the federally Health Information Technology Standards Committee, which has reported to Mostashari throughout his tenure. “Working with Farzad has been an extraordinary experience. His contribution has certainly been vast. He will be missed.”
Like Halamka, Dr. Paul Tang, chief innovation and technology officer at the Palo Alto (Calif.) Medical Foundation, has worked with Mostashari at close quarters, serving as vice chairman of the federal HIT Policy Committee, which Mostashari chairs. Tang chairs the HIT Policy Committee's meaningful use workgroup. Both panels advise the ONC.
“Farzad has brought tremendous leadership, experience, and energy to this important position,” Tang said. “The accomplishments he led in the office and in partnership with CMS (which runs the EHR incentive payment program) during these past two years of HITECH implementation are setting up the needed information infrastructure that is so important for delivering patient-centered, coordinated, team-based care. We all owe him a debt of gratitude.”
In a March 4 video interview at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention in New Orleans, Mostashari was asked about his tenure.
“I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing, as long as I'm having fun, and I'm having a lot of fun,” Mostashari said.
Mostashari has not announced his plans after leaving ONC service.
Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn