Health IT Expert Explores the Role of Technological Innovation in Healthcare Reform at Stevens Deans’ Seminar Series

9/24/2013

Headlining the Deans’ Seminar Series at Stevens on Sept. 23, 2013, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), explored how advancing technology, information systems and data can improve the healthcare system. 

As national coordinator for health information technology, Mostashari leads the nation in constructing a health care system that uses information and technology to empower and improve the health of Americans.

His talk, “Health IT and Healthcare Transformation,” looked at what outcomes the healthcare system currently incentivizes­­ and how technological innovation will enable the systemic changes necessary to incentivize the right outcomes—better health.

In the U.S., most doctors and hospitals are paid by seeing more patients and doing more procedures—not by quality of care scores.

“Healthcare is the only market where you get paid more for producing a defective product,” Mostashari said. “We pay twice as much for healthcare are other countries, which is okay if we have the best outcomes in the world. But we don’t.”

The fee-for-service model has persisted because historically there has been little transparency on quality and cost scores of healthcare providers.

With no accepted and accurate performance metrics for doctors and hospitals, healthcare customers—including patients, private insurers and the federal Medicare program—have no way of assessing which providers get the best outcomes, so they continue to pay for visits and procedures instead of health.  

Mostashari said technological innovation is essential to enabling the measurement of quality of care, which in turn could enable reform of the payment incentives that drive the healthcare market and shift the system toward quality over quantity.

In the past five to ten years, there has been incredible improvement in how healthcare providers can collect data to measure health outcomes, Mostashari said.

There has been significant progress in electronic health record adoption by hospitals and primary care providers, as well as big jumps in the number of e-prescribers and pharmacies that accept e-prescriptions.

In addition, many more doctors today than a decade ago use clinical decision support tools to guide diagnosis and treatment, order medications by computer instead of hand, and keep digital records of drug interactions and active medications of their patients.

Mostashari said efforts to embed these tools and technologies into the healthcare infrastructure are the first steps in reforming the complex healthcare system.

Better data means better measurement of quality of care, so patients can make informed decisions about which providers they use, and providers will be forced to show good outcomes and affordable services to be considered by patients.  

The Stevens Deans’ Seminar Series is a biannual lecture event featuring distinguished speakers organized by deans of all four schools and college.

Having previously served in different leadership functions within the HHS, Mostashari has been instrumental in promoting electronic health record adoption and furthering the development of health information exchange.

With a background in public health, Mostashari facilitated the adoption of prevention-oriented health information technology by more than 1,500 providers in underserved New York City communities, was a lead investigator in the outbreaks of West Nile Virus and anthrax in New York City, and was among the first developers of real-time nationwide electronic disease surveillance systems.