Monday, May 24, 2010

Imagine the Power of a Proactive FDA

At the most recent Health2.0 conference in San Francisco we heard from Sanjay Koyani who is charged with web design and usability efforts at the FDA. Prior to joining the FDA Sanjay was in similar roles at both the HHS and the National Cancer Institute. The FDA has been making a lot of news recently for many things. Among the most recent newsworthy events involving the FDA, which monitors both food and drug safety issues was a peanut butter recall. Sanjay's team did a remarkable job with the dissemination of information to consumers and professionals around the peanut butter recall and the affected products.
Sanjay's team has become prolific users of Twitter and other social media tools to communicate directly with professionals and the general public. This has resulted in remarkable results both in terms of the speed with which information is disseminated and that at which the public is educated on an issue. Equally notable was the effort on the part of many citizens to aid in the dissemination of this information and to "pick up the torch' on behalf of the FDA in informing and educating citizens. Social media shows again how it can work at its best for another worthy goal.
I would like to commend Sanjay and the FDA in wholeheartedly embracing the power of Digital to accomplish their outreach and educational goals in a much more timely fashion that ultimately results in professionals and citizens who are more quickly informed and better educated. Sanjay was quick to point out that the direction of Aneesh Chopra has been instrumental in encouraging government agencies to do so.
At the same time as we head towards the FDA's DDMAC hearings this 12th of November I wonder if it is time for the FDA to do more and go the extra step for the benefit of the professionals, citizens and corporations that fall under its purview.
With the advent of digital technology and crowdsourcing it is now possible for the FDA to play a proactive role in the recognition of drug and food issues. Imagine a world where we the public could know at the same time as manufacturers - maybe even before - about issues with foods or drugs. Imagine an FDA that is better informed and able to deal with these issues as they are gestating. This is now a reality.
As the FDA begins to consider questions about pharmaceutical companies and how they will be allowed to engage in the digital space, I would like to suggest that the FDA seriously consider how it too could become a more proactive agency on behalf of all its constituents by becoming more involved in the cloud.
Building on their fine experience in distributing important information, the FDA could begin to actively engage in the dialogue and the collection of relevant data on a much larger scale. Reviewing crowd sourcing tools such as Flutrackr and Google's health, it is hard not to imagine a world where our Federal agencies could become proactive in managing and averting public dangers.
For years we have heard about "chatter" mostly from our intelligence and military organizations. Chatter could very well be used to make us more intelligent about matters of public health regarding both drug and food safety. Using the cloud to both anticipate and collect data on potential public dangers.
I can imagine the benefits of this more proactive, more informed FDA, can you?

Originally published on Full Spectrum Blog Nov 5 2009

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