FDA turns to cloud to boost big data efforts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is embracing cloud computing as part of its effort to build powerful tools to collect, store and analyze massive amounts of data.

The agency this year expects to receive between 1.5 million and 2 million submissions through its eSubmission Gateway from manufacturers, healthcare providers, regulatory bodies, scientists and others. The FDA's new technology aims to turn the submissions, which vary in format and quality, into data that can be used effectively, Taha A. Kass-Hout, the FDA's chief health informatics officer and director of its Office of Informatics and Technology Innovation, writes in a blog post.

Its OpenFDA initiative is the newest effort to make its massive datasets more accessible to application developers, scientists and others through a open "search-based" application programming interface. The effort was launched earlier this month with the release of data on drug adverse events.

A recent HIMSS Analytics survey found hospital IT executives are also turning to the cloud. Close to 83 percent indicated that they use cloud technology; half of those providers said they use the cloud to host clinical applications.

Speaking at Health Datapalooza in Washington, former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently touted government efforts to "liberate" the data it collects, calling them a catalyst for innovation.

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins recently wrote that its big data initiative, called Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), will transform biomedical research by distilling more useable knowledge from existing data.

To learn more:
- read the blog post