Mostashari muses on sequestration, RECs recommendations

Exchange and interoperability are some of the most frequently uttered words at this year’s HIMSS13 conference. Yet they are only two among the many issues facing national health IT coordinator Farzad Mostashari, MD.

Tom Sullivan, editor of Healthcare Finance News' sister publication Government Health IT spoke with Mostashari on Tuesday at the conference about sequestration, the newly-formed CommonWell Health Alliance, the sustainability of Regional Extension Centers after their federal funding comes to a close, and a glimpse of what to expect during Mostashari’s Thursday morning keynote.

[See also: Healthcare policy leaders encourage the industry to speed up change]

Q: By how much will sequestration reduce your budget and what has to give?
A: It’s 5 percent: A $3 million cut for an office whose budget has been $60 million since the day it was founded by President George W. Bush. This is going to hurt. We are not furloughing people, which is the bulk of the budget. So our contracts are going to take a big hit.

Q: Among the big news here at HIMSS13 is CommonWell Health Alliance, the agreement between half-a-dozen top EHR vendors, sans Epic, whose CEO Judy Faulkner since said the deal is about competition in a way that’s bad for the country...
A: We have to zoom out a little bit and not get into the he-said she-said. [CommonWell] is incontrovertible evidence that interoperability and exchange is now a key market differentiator and vendors large and small are committed – five years ago that was not true. There is not a vendor in the country that can be blind to the need for interoperability. I welcome any market-based approach.

Q: As the regional extension centers (RECs) conclude Stage 1 meaningful use and their federal funding winds down, how are they doing? Are there are any shining examples?
A: Oh, they’re all my stars. They are each so different. Look, we have boots on the ground that for $5,000 go into practices and help them implement EHRs, attest, and get their payments. And they do that where it’s needed most in the country. To me, it’s a story of grit and resistance. You know what scales? Grit.

Q: Will the RECs survive after the federal funding ends?
A: I don’t know that we know that yet. They will if providers believe they add value and if they deepen the services they offer. We don’t have the army we need for this [healthcare and IT] transformation and RECs can help with that.

Q: You have the opening keynote here on Thursday. What will your overarching message be?
A: Three things: Making meaningful use of technology, saying ‘let’s achieve interoperability and exchange with health IT’ and patients as positive disruption.

Q: A personal question for you. Around the convention center are posters listing the times of both your keynote and former President Clinton’s. How do you like being on the same poster as Clinton?
A: I hadn’t seen that yet. I’ll have to take a picture and send it to my mom.