Health IT

By Alice Lipowicz

Blog archive

HHS Open Government Plan deserves a visit

I have to give the Health and Human Services Department credit for its Open Government Plan. The plan was bursting at the seams with lots of new ideas for government transparency and accountability, mostly in the form of new dashboards and datasets. So kudos to HHS for promoting open government!

Let’s talk about some of the details. For example, the new FDA-Track project has 40 online performance management dashboards; that’s right, 40. That is both impressive and, possibly, unwieldy; It takes quite a bit of scrolling around to get the full picture.

Looking over a few of the FDA-Track dashboards (which are still in beta mode), I read through many of the performance measures. Some were useful; others a bit esoteric. One of the performance measures for the Information Management Office is the percentage of IT outages resolved in three hours. I don’t know about the FDA but, at my house, the question of how quickly a power outage is resolved is beyond my control and in the hands of the utility companies. So it is not immediately clear to me how it is in the FDA IT department’s control to resolve power outages quickly. That’s a small quibble that is not meant to detract from what looks like one of the largest open government initiatives I’ve seen.

Next, I checked out the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) dashboard after an FCW reader asked me to write about it. Well, after 10 minutes, I’m still trying to decipher the first three charts I looked at. It does not help that the charts are sprinkled with acronyms and jargon. It seems to me that the CMS dashboard is very ambitious in scope and designed for people with some familiarity with these datasets. I may come back to visit later, when I have more time.

Third, I visited the newly published list of HIPAA breach notifications from the HHS Office for Civil Rights. Technically, this is not part of the open government plan, but shouldn’t those principles apply across the board? It’s great that the breach list is published. But as for easily finding if there were breaches in my state, or with my own health plan, that wasn't possible. A simple chart format would have solved that problem.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Apr 20, 2010 at 12:14 PM


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