Thursday, April 8, 2010


The FDA has launched a system this week for measuring agency performance, an initiative that will give congressional appropriators a clearer understanding of how the FDA uses its money. The agency's new system, FDA-TRACK, combines a slew of data points with longer-term initiatives in each product center and several divisions of the leadership offices. Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, MD has experience running a similar system in the city health department in Baltimore.

According to the web site the objectives of FDA-TRACK can be explained through its name:

Transparency – provide interested parties an unprecedented look into how FDA performs its work.
Results – highlights performance measures and results with relevance to the agency’s public health mission.

Accountability – requires senior managers to develop, track, and report performance measures that will improve the agency’s accountability to the public; holds the program offices accountable for their priorities, plans and results.

Credibility – encourages sharing of information about FDA performance which is essential for the agency’s credibility; provides the opportunity to submit suggestions which will be considered as part of the continuous improvement efforts.

Knowledge-sharing - enables the identification of common issues and interdependencies among program offices to improve FDA’s operational effectiveness through better collaboration and sharing of ideas.

The data metrics will be updated monthly, and program officials will brief the Office of Planning and agency leadership each quarter. Those discussions will enable FDA to “consistently highlight trends and issues across the agency, enable collaborative and data-driven decision making, and establish a more informed dialogue between its program offices and senior leadership,” the Web site states. The first round of quarterly briefings is scheduled to begin as early as this month.

The FDA has consistently tried to portray itself as a leader in the Obama administration's open-government campaign, but with mixed results so far. They originally launched a transparency initiative last summer, but up to now it had produced little more than a new Web site explaining FDA's basic mission to consumers. Also, the Government Accountability Office has faulted the agency for a lack of strategic planning, including a recent report that said FDA has not sufficiently linked its policy goals to tangible benchmarks that can be used to measure progress. This new initiative FDA-TRACK could be just what the doctor ordered...

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