HHS is looking to hire a second chief data officer, largely to work with other federal agencies to develop governmentwide best practices.
Dr. Mona Siddiqui, who currently serves as CDO in HHS' Office of the Chief Technology Officer, told reporters Monday that her role will continue to be more internally focused.
Federal agencies were required to designate a "non-political" CDO by this summer as part of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law this past January. CDOs are tasked with managing agency data and collaborating across the government to encourage data sharing, among other tasks.
"As the Evidence Act gets implemented, there are many, many different pieces to it," Siddiqui said, a number of which fall outside of her current responsibilities. "My goal has really been much more internally focused."
Jose Arrieta, chief information officer at HHS, in October told attendees at the GovDATAx conference in Washington, D.C., he was serving as acting CDO until the department hired someone in an official capacity, sparking confusion over how his role differed from Siddiqui's. HHS had referenced Siddiqui as HHS' chief data officer as recently as last year.
But Siddiqui on Monday said her role within the HHS' Office of the CTO has primarily involved leading work on ReImagine HHS, an initiative to streamline the department's operations through efforts like connecting data across HHS' 11 operating divisions. "That's mainly what I've been doing for the past 2½ years," she said.
Siddiqui added that there are multiple agency-specific CDOs leading data work within HHS.
It can sometimes take more than a year to negotiate data use agreements between HHS agencies, she said. Siddiqui acknowledged figuring out how to streamline that process is a "non-glamorous part" of becoming a data-driven enterprise. "It's about creating the pipeline and the organizational infrastructure," she said.
One effort to tackle that involves the launch of an internal platform designed to streamline data-sharing across the department. Siddiqui said the platform, which the department has been demonstrating to HHS agencies for the past few weeks, would provide a central place for analysts to request datasets and strike data use agreements with one another.
She said the platform won't bring in all HHS data at once, and will instead begin with select use cases, like opioids or value-based care.
"I don't often say technology is the solution, but here it really can help automate the workflow in ways that we haven't had before," she said.