Mostashari aims to minimize government's role in health IT

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari this week said he hopes to minimize the federal government's role in steering physicians and hospitals to use electronic health records (EHRs), The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

During an event hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., Mostashari said that the government has allocated billions of dollars in incentives to encourage health care providers to adopt health IT but that the private sector now will assume a larger role in the industry.

"The private marketplace is the biggest driver for innovation," Mostashari said, adding, "We have got to bring innovation more and more to health care." He said, "And we have to beware that we don't create government failures in trying to solve market failures. We have to have humility about what we can and can't do."

He noted that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has been working on several health IT-related programs in the last two years, including:

  • The meaningful use program, in which health care providers who use certified EHRs in a meaningful way can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments;
  • Community college health IT training programs; and
  • Regional extension centers.

Mostashari said the next few months will be an "intense phase of implementation" of health IT.

Former senators weigh in
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who helped found the Bipartisan Policy Center, said the U.S. health care marketplace needs to have greater integration and collaboration. He added that "we have today a 21st-century operating room and a 19th-century administrative room. Health IT is the best way to bring that administrative room to the 21st century."

Also during the event, former Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah)—a senior fellow at the center—said the measure of success in health IT will be lower costs and higher quality of care. Bennett added that it would be "crazy" not to support health IT. However, Bennett also said U.S. residents must be reassured that the privacy and security of their patient records is a priority.

Mostashari addresses privacy, security
Mostashari said he is committed to making privacy and security a top priority. He said that there currently is no perfect system but that there can be more protections with EHRs than with paper records. He added that it will be essential to make sure that HIPAA privacy rules are enforced. In addition, Mostashari said that:

  • EHR data that are stored on portable devices, such as laptops, should be encrypted; and
  • Patients and health care providers should be aware of the identity of entities involved in electronic data transactions.

More funding needed
Mostashari agreed with Bennett and Daschle that the federal government should provide more funds beyond meaningful use to promote broader health IT adoption (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/26; Manos, Healthcare IT News, 4/27; Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 4/27 [subscription required]; Mosquera, Government Health IT, 4/26; McCarthy, National Journal, 4/26 [subscription required]; Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 4/26; Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 4/26 [subscription required]).

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