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3.1 Administrative Approaches to Enhance Availability of Data

The Department of Health and Human Service is committed to making health and human service data open and easily accessible as defined in OMB Memorandum M-13-13, Open Data Policy-Managing Information as an Asset (Open Data Policy). The Department has made progress to institute the Enterprise Data Inventory (EDI) framework as outlined in the Project Open Data implementation guide.

One of the main tenets of the Open Data Policy is to strengthen data management and release practices. This means all Department data should be available in an open and machine readable format.  In November, 2013, the Department created and released its first Public Data Listing, which cataloged all public Department data sets in the JSON file format. This JSON file is posted on the Healthdata.gov website and is available to the general public. These publically released data sets make up the core of the EDI. In the future, after a robust workflow process is developed and implemented for the Department by the Health Data Leads, current non-public data sets may be identified for release to the public.

The Department, after conducting a review and analysis of various candidates, has identified an information management system to function as the repository for the Department EDI. The HHS Enterprise Architecture Repository (HEAR) will serve as the enterprise data repository. Extending the repository metamodel will support the expansion and enrichment of all data assets created or collected by HHS. In addition, the repository serves as the authoritative source for HHS IT Systems and related data. The OPDIVs will have the ability to record dataset entries related to their major IT investments in the repository. HEAR is scalable and will be modified to support the capability to generate the EDI report in the required JSON file format.  By the 3rd Quarter FY14, the repository is scheduled to be operational to capture the metadata attributes for public, non-public, and restricted data sets in the HHS inventory.

In the future, the Department will institutionalize procedures to continue to promote interoperability and openness of structured information by modifying the existing Enterprise Performance Life Cycle for HHS IT system acquisitions in order to document the data sets for new or modified information systems as a part of the Department’s system development process.

HHS takes multiple approaches when identifying data assets that are not yet publicly available.  The HHS Health Data Leads represent institutional knowledge about the department’s data assets and conduct regular outreach to their colleagues in their divisions as part of an active process of traversing the department in search of new data liberation opportunities. The department also welcomes input from the public about data assets that they’re interested in utilizing in new and novel ways that are not publicly available.  HealthData.gov offers feedback loops for public comments and suggestions about opportunities to make new data sets publicly available. The timeframes for online publication can vary depending on a number of factors including the current state of the data (whether it exists in an easily manipulated format), presence of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), or the level of data quality that exists in the dataset.  The goal is to make data available in a timely fashion while ensuring privacy is protected and quality is maintained. 

As noted above, HHS will require all Information System acquisition and enhancement projects to document the associated data assets in the EDI. Those data assets will be reviewed for security and privacy impacts, such as whether the data is subject to the mosaic effect, contains PII, or is subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protections.  Additionally, language in contracts and grants will require updating the EDI as needed for any data assets produced. Some of the data assets added to the EDI through these processes and the appropriations of the availability of these data sets to the public will be evaluated over time.

The expanded EDI will be periodically reviewed by the Health Data Leads to assess whether additional data assets can be publicly released.

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