The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has detailed its planned vision for the department to internally transform how it shares, analyzes, and derives new insights by leveraging data.

A new report from HHS’ Office of the Chief Technology Officer details the following:

  • “Strategies for closing gaps in data governance;
  • Robust data-sharing and use agreement frameworks;
  • The necessary functional attributes of an overall technical platform that can support data sharing at HHS; and
  • Approaches for fostering a culture that values data sharing.”

Additionally, the report focuses on data-sharing in several focus areas including: culture, processes, enabling technologies, regulations and privacy, and organizational structure.

To improve the data-sharing culture across its 29 agencies and offices, HHS will adopt a Change Management Plan that will have communications, training, programming, and strategic growth components to increase stakeholder engagement and feedback.

The data-sharing process described in the report is already used in a few HHS offices, but not for the department writ large. Although component HHS agencies that already have effective data-sharing processes will be encouraged to continue using them, the report says that an agency-wide strategy is necessary to reduce the time required to fulfill data-sharing requests.

On the enabling technologies front, the HHS report proposes a data-sharing platform that will boost security, reduce preparation costs for upfront processing, provide flexibility to increase data consumption and optimize business decisions, and effectively distribute knowledge using big data analytics sources.

In data-sharing privacy and regulation, HHS notes key statutes and policies that will be accounted for with respect to data-use agreements, including:

  • The Privacy Act of 1974;
  • The Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002;
  • Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 2: Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records;
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy and security regulations; and
  • Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552), The Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C. § 1905) and section 1106 of the Social Security Act.

Lastly, the data-sharing structure will feature an Interagency Steering Committee and Interagency Working Groups.

“The development of a unifying data-sharing vision that recognizes the needs and challenges of each agency is best met through an HHS-wide steering committee that receives advice and support from HHS-wide working groups,” the report said. “Rather than duplicate roles, groups, and expertise already in place within HHS, this structure will be fashioned in ways that support and leverage these existing resources and will leverage existing committee structures where possible.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.