FDA’s Modernization to Focus on Agency Mission and People

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The agency's acting CTO Sohail Chaudhry said FDA plans to implement machine learning tools that require minimal training. 

Automation is a key pillar in the Food and Drug Administration’s digital transformation plan, with user experience at the forefront of modernization efforts, according to the agency’s acting Chief Technology Officer Sohail Chaudhry. 

Speaking on a GovFocus panel on Thursday, Chaudhry discussed the FDA’s priorities surrounding modernization. As its recently-created Office of Digital Transformation oversees the implementation of new technologies, the agency remains mission-driven.

“Data and people are at the heart of the FDA,” Chaudhry said. 

As the FDA works to introduce machine learning and automation into daily business operations, primarily with analyzing data, leadership is focusing on operationalizing tools that require minimal training.

The automated programs will work in areas like handwriting recognition, language translation, form recognition, dataset validation, and content comprehension and extraction, all to help the FDA streamline data and potentially improve data quality as it goes into cloud repositories.

Chaudhry noted that the machine learning models will need consistent testing and adjustments as needed. 

“We are striving to have our users worry less about the actual “how” part, as to how things are being done, how things are being developed…we would rather have our doctors, our mathematicians, our statisticians, et cetera spend more time on the actual data,” he said. 

Equipping new technologies with user-friendly interfaces  additionally follows the FDA’s hierarchy of “people, process, technology.” Chaudhry said that this approach will encourage the enterprise-wide adoption of new information technology services, along with other data management and cybersecurity applications. 

“The goal is for these modular services to be purpose-fit,” he commented.