FDA launches 40 online performance management dashboards

The Food and Drug Administration has started its online performance management system that tracks agency performance measures on 40 Web-based dashboards.

The Food and Drug Administration is being praised -- as well as being called a risk-taker — as a result of launching its comprehensive "FDA-TRACK" online performance management reporting system that featues 40 dashboards.

The agency launched FDA-TRACK (Transparency, Results, Accountability, Credibility, Knowledge-sharing) in beta mode on April 7 with 40 dashboards tracking benchmarks from 100 FDA program offices. Once fully implemented, FDA-TRACK will have its own Web site. The system currently operates as part of the “About FDA” section of the FDA.gov Web site

For example, on FDA-TRACK, the agency's Office of Administration dashboard is posting data about 78 performance measures from seven administrative units. Its information management unit is tracking four benchmarks related to the upcoming data center migration and three measures related to timeliness of resolution of information technology-related outages.

The 40 dashboards are clustered in nine groups matching FDA’s divisions, including food safety, biologics, drug evaluation and research, regulatory affairs, as well as cross-agency issues and the FDA commissioner’s office.

Many of the performance measures are reported on a monthly basis. Some are one-time milestones for a particular project. Others are common measures that span the entire agency, such as the percentage of employees who have completed incident-command training to help with disaster response.

“This Web site enables all interested external and internal visitors to view FDA’s performance data at the program office level and gain a better understanding of the breadth of FDA’s core responsibilities, as well as see progress on important projects and programs,” the FDA said.

FDA-TRACK is being phased in. As of today, some of the offices are reporting data to their dashboards, but many of the 40 dashboards don't yet contain data.

Some of the cross-agency measures under development include measures for tracking Freedom of Information Act requests, FDA advisory committee recruitment and screening, and activities at FDA public call centers.

Dissenting opinion

“For all of the glory of being a ‘leader,’ there is also a risk to the agency of being among the first federal agencies to implement a system this large and detailed,” Steven Grossman, deputy executive director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, wrote in his blog on April 9. “FDA-TRACK is intentionally transparent, meaning that any shortcomings or failures of the agency will become public knowledge quickly.”

Even so, Grossman said it is a risk worth taking because the FDA-TRACK system likely will help the FDA become a more effective agency. Grossman predicts that the FDA is likely to get some negative attention by providing so much internal information in depth, but he expects it will be worth the effort.

“The agency will face critics who see the early results from FDA-TRACK as ammo for assaulting [FDA]. It will take time for the metrics to be refined. Accountability can’t be judged from quarterly reports. We should commit to being patient, knowing that there will be bumps, maybe even some outright failures,” Grossman wrote.

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