Farzad Mostashari on Digitizing Health Records

The man leading the White House push to digitize health records sees proof that the billions of investment is already money well spent

Why is there such an urgency to move to electronic health records?
In the New England Journal of Medicine this month, there’s a study involving 27,000 patients with diabetes in Cleveland. Out of every 100 patients in paper-based practices, how many do you think got the basic standard of care? Seven! Among those using electronic records, it was 51 percent. Doctors want better information about who needs care and what they need. You can’t get that from paper charts.
 
How do doctors know which technology to adopt?
We’re pretty agnostic about vendors. Our goal is to promote adoption. Instead of competing on format, let’s compete on services. We have set standards around inter-operability, and more than 1,000 products have been certified to meet those standards.
 
What is your role?
We see ourselves as catalysts to help create an efficient market that can promote innovation. Sometimes it’s cheerleading. Other times, it’s about setting standards and helping doctors make the transition. Being national coordinator is like being a conductor. My job is to maintain the beat and momentum.
 
Some doctors fear being ranked by the metrics. Should they?
Instead of measurement being done to doctors, it should be done by them. If every day I open up my record and can see where I am in getting to my goals for, say, breast cancer screening, that feels different. What you get is better care.

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