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Researchers Call Out HHS for Lack of Standardized Data Sharing Protocols

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Researchers from the Department of Health and Human Services‘ Office of the Chief Technology Officer have learned that HHS constituent agencies do not have a standardized mechanism for sharing restricted and nonpublic data resulting in procedural inefficiencies and the siloing of information.

The researchers said in a September 2018 report that there is no uniform documentary requirement across and even within HHS agencies for data access requests, with some agencies preferring the use of interagency agreements and others favoring data sharing agreements.

The research team also observed that requisite documents could be subjected to additional review, delaying the release of requested information by as much as one year.

Furthermore, the investigators found out that many agencies do not have a dedicated unit assigned to track data requests and their outcomes, resulting in requestors likely encountering “difficulty in navigating various procedures and forms.”

The absence of a “data governance group” at the agency or even departmental level “can also lead to a lack of accountability regarding access requests,” the investigative team noted, adding: “There was little evidence of agency-level procedures to address concerns if access is significantly and inappropriately delayed or denied altogether.”

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