FDA to Hire Data Officer, Revamp IT Systems

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By Alex Ruoff

Dec. 15 — The FDA plans to digitize its inspection and testing processes to improve the use of its own data, the agency's recently named chief information officer said Dec. 15.

The Food and Drug Administration in 2016 will connect its testing laboratories and field offices to allow inspectors and researchers to communicate freely and make use of agency data, Todd Simpson, CIO of the FDA, said. The data will be used to oversee FDA projects and investments to streamline processes and procedures, according to Simpson.

The agency also plans to hire a chief data officer to oversee changes to how the agency uses the information it collects in testing food, drugs and medical devices, Simpson said.

“Our labs across the U.S. are all using Ethernet,” he said, referring to the cables that connect computers to a network. “What we want is interoperability among our labs.”

The changes at the FDA will include rolling out a choose-your-own-device policy that allows FDA inspectors and administrators to choose from a number of smartphones to work from, Simpson said, speaking at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Health IT Day in Bethesda, Md.

The FDA in October unveiled its IT Strategic Plan, a three-year plan for improving internal IT systems at the agency.

A Fragmented Network

The FDA has been plagued by fragmented IT networks—information systems that aren't connected, Simpson said. This means the FDA can't easily look at its own data for insights into how to improve its workforce or processes, he said.

The agency, however, collects a great deal of data about drugs and medical devices, Simpson, said, which could be put to better use.

“We're a big data shop and data governance is obviously very important to us,” he said. “We believe it's key.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Patty Logan at plogan@bna.com