CDC shuffles IT responsibilities

Federal Register notice: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statement of organization, func

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As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts a massive, agencywide transformation — its first in 25 years — it is also shuffling information technology duties.

CDC shifted IT duties by creating a new office to separate business support functions from mission-critical duties, elevating the visibility of and attention to both, said James Seligman, the centers' chief information officer.

The Management Information Systems Office (MISO), as outlined in a Sept. 23 Federal Register notice, will develop and support enterprise business systems, such as finance, human resources and grants. The office reports to the CIO and is also responsible for IT security, new technology integration and data management.

The former Information Resources Management Office had been responsible for those tasks. But CDC officials decided they needed a new office after reordering the agency and, perhaps more importantly, establishing a national center for the application of health care technology, Seligman said.

As CDC officials re-examined the agency's structure a couple of years ago, they saw a need for a stronger focus on health technology. So they created the National Center for Public Health Informatics by merging the functions of the former information management office, which handled the development and operations of systems, and several other related offices.

But to streamline the center, CDC had to separate support functions, Seligman said. Thus, MISO emerged from the public health-related agency as an independent branch.

By making MISO a separate office, CDC elevated the importance of its duties within the organization, Seligman said. It also allows the new health center to devote its energy to its mission.

The new center is creating an unprecedented research agenda based on public health informatics. Each of CDC's national centers has a research strategy to advance that part of public health, and public health informatics research has been developing for the past few years, he said.

"We now have an opportunity to develop systems that are much more outward facing and ultimately changing how public health is practiced," he said.

Don Detmer, president and chief executive officer of the American Medical Informatics Association, said CDC is on the right track with the IT office shuffle. The success of the health informatics center will depend on how many agency employees understand the potential of informatics for the agency and public health, Detmer said.

Furthermore, the administrative IT systems are crucial but "not transformative with respect to mission-critical opportunities," he said.

"CDC has seen this distinction and is committed to organizing to use informatics to leverage its role and impact in health and health care," Detmer said.

Janet Marchibroda, CEO of the eHealth Initiative, a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving health care through IT, said the changes were necessary because the skills required for supporting an organization's IT shop vary greatly compared with those required for working with public health partners and advancing informatics research.

Michael is a freelance writer based in Chicago.

Setting up a new shop

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created the Management Information Systems Office to manage enterprise business systems. The office replaces the reorganized Information Resources Management Office. Some of its duties, as outlined in a recent Federal Register notice, include:

  • Providing data management support to CDC's administrative lines of business.
  • Collaborating with other agencies in the delivery of enterprise business systems.
  • Integrating emerging and existing technology.
  • Managing CDC's workforce data repository.
  • Providing technical project management and investment management for capital planning.
  • Ensuring that systems meet information technology security requirements.
  • Providing knowledge management services such as information sharing and data categorization.

— Sara Michael

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