It was interesting to see the US government turn to Optum’s Quality Software Services Inc. today to fix Healthcare.gov. It would probably have been smart of them to subcontract this to people who sell insurance and healthcare IT services in the first place, much less to one of the many capable health insurance exchange companies that already exist.
I’m not surprised there have been a bevy of glitches in the initial roll-out of the federal health insurance exchange given the speed of implementation and the nature of new software. Having worked with an awful lot of companies in healthcare IT and IT in general, I haven’t seen one yet that worked right out of the gate. It is always an iterative process, though rarely such a public one. Granted, it appears that the feds failed to do what so many in healthcare before them have failed to do, which is engage in meaningful consumer-centered design where actual consumers help determine the user interface. And they also seemed to have left out the consumer testing phase—a big oversight. We in the HIT field have too often assumed that consumers will find our logic logical and our ease of use easy when in fact we offer them the world’s most complex game of Operation.
Now to be fair, Obamacare is more than just the exchanges and the uninsured have been waiting a life time to get insurance, so a few months of delay because of bad software is hardly worth noticing. Except for the fact that they are just now asking White House CTO Todd Park, founder of multiple health-related softrware companies, to help with the “surge”? Um, dude, he was that guy in the office next door to you all along.
In any event, the political response to the Healthcare.gov launch debacle has been remarkably ironic, with Republicans damning the President and Secretary Sebellius for a program that works poorly when they should be rejoicing that they accidentally got their wish. If consumers find the program impossible to contend with they aren’t going to continue to support it. Hey, Ted Cruz, this is when you should stop talking and let others do your dirty work for you. Or maybe you should just stop talking. But I digress.
My most favorite news story on this whole situation was on the Daily Show early this week with the “I wish I wrote that” overall segment title of 99 Problems and a Glitch is All of Them. Such an inspired title; for those of you non-crossover middle aged white people, this is a play on JayZ’s rap song 99 Problems and a Bitch Ain’t One. Too funny. The best part is when Daily News correspondent John Oliver gets sucked into the Healthcare.gov website and chased by PacMan.