In 2010, HHS issued its Open Government plan with five flagship initiatives. All five initiatives achieved significant progress toward their milestones and continue to provide new capabilities to keep the public aware of and involved in government processes. Here is a brief summary of the progress made on each initiative.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Dashboards, launched in 2011, simplify data while making them more accessible. These dashboards promote transparency and improve public understanding of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. By simplifying and making data more accessible through tools like dashboards, CMS hopes the questions asked and answered by researchers and policymakers will continue to accelerate efforts to improve the nation's health care delivery and payment systems.
The Food and Drug Administration was the primary agency on two flagship initiatives. The first, the FDA Transparency Initiative has had three phases and is proceeding according to its timeline. In 2010, FDA launched a web-based resource called FDA Basics that provides the public with information about FDA. In 2010, the FDA’s Transparency task force addressed public disclosure processes about FDA regulated products and firms. In 2011, the task force addressed transparency issues related to FDA operations and decision making. In early 2012, FDA released a report identifying new initiatives to explore avenues to enhancing availability of FDA compliance and enforcement data. The second initiative, FDA-TRACK (Transparency-Results-Accountability-Credibility-Knowledge-sharing) is FDA's agency-wide program performance management system that monitors over 100 FDA program offices through key performance measures and projects. These measures and projects are developed by the program offices across the FDA and reported on a monthly basis. Each quarter, monthly performance data are analyzed, and senior managers present these data to FDA senior leadership. The project has met its timelines and is helping promote broader understanding of changes in performance across the agency.
A cross-agency initiative to improve the processing of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests was also among the original five HHS flagship initiatives. At the time of the first plan there were significant backlogs among several HHS agencies. HHS FOIA offices engaged in an analytical approach to understand workflow and submission processes and identified opportunities for improvement. By targeting the agencies with extensive backloads and reassigning staffing to meet them, HHS was able to reduce the backlog of FOIA requests by more than 67%. HHS is also taking more proactive steps using technology and smart disclosure efforts to avoid the use of FOIA when information is more freely available. The “Blue Button” initiative enabling Medicare beneficiary access to their health information is an example. HHS FOIA leadership has been promoting meetings and detailed discussions about best practices in FOIA management.
The final flagship initiative, the Community Health Data Initiative (now renamed the Health Data Initiative), has been a major Open Government success. The core elements have been the development of a central data resource for new data users to identify data that can be used to create new applications and services. Annual meetings in partnership with the Institute of Medicine were held in 2010 and 2011. This past year, a public-private consortium, the Health Data Consortium, was formed with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to build stakeholder communities. More than 50 meet-ups, code-a-thons, and challenge competitions have been held to create new uses of data to improve health and health care. The efforts of the Health Data Initiative have now spread to many states and local communities who are creating their own open source data environments. HHS continues to play a key leadership role in advocating for an ecosystem of data users and data providers that create value for improved decision making by policy makers, the public, health care professionals, researchers, and many others. All of the milestones established in the original Open Government plan for this initiative were far exceeded and the momentum continues to grow, enabling data to benefit the public in new ways.