The rise of affordable healthcare through a virtual marketplace, HealthCare.gov causes some headaches for users trying to find affordable healthcare.
Charles Moore. (2013). HealthCares
Affordable healthcare is something everyone can benefit from; this was made obvious with the introduction to HealthCare.gov. Such a large amount of people logging onto the website caused it to crash, delay and even freeze up. This has been very frustrating to many wanting to find affordable healthcare. According to Whitehouse.gov as of October 21, 2013 the site had over 19 million unique views. Most websites would love to be that popular on their initial rollout, but HealthCare.gov is a site that has something people are very interested in.
Continuing on, the initial rollout was very popular but the experience with the site was less then what was expected for most consumers if not all. According to President Barack Obama in a morning White House press conference, he said, “Nobody is more frustrated by that then I am.” Going on to say, “Precisely because the product is good.” And that he wants people to have an easy experience and essentially to have the website functioning for everyone. While there are quite a few issues with the site, President Barack Obama is adamant to get these issues addressed and smoothed out. Stating in the public address, “There’s no excuse for the problems, and these problems are getting fixed.” It seemed that many who had issues with the website did find away to get through. On just the first 2 days alone 143,828 individuals called in to enroll. There are four ways to enroll in the healthcare marketplace, in person, over the phone, a paper application and also online.
Local resident Katie Campbell has a chronic condition that requires her to get a prescription each month and she was exited to hear about the healthcare exchange. When Campbell was asked if she had been on the site, Campbell said, “With all the news about the site being down I was reluctant to check it out.” And goes on to explain that the news broadcasts made it seem like such a headache to even access the site. But Campbell said, “I plan on checking it out once it is functional, to see if I can get better coverage.”
Charles Moore. (2013). Uninsured. Click to Enlarge
At HHS.gov a list is available that outlines how they’re improving the functionality of HealthCare.gov. Some of the key issues are a continued high volume of web traffic; the plan is to increase the bandwidth by adding servers and improving the site. Another problem is with the database and system syncing that is causing issues for users to create accounts; the fix for this is substituted hardware and improved site architecture. One question most users had was if the site had been tested for heavy workload experiences, according to HHS.gov, “Due to a compressed timeframe, the system wasn’t tested enough, especially for high volumes.” The site also states to have stepped up their user testing. The site also boasts to be working 24/7 to improve HeathCare.gov, declaring no rest until the site is fixed.
Matt Hackmann is a Web Developer at LinkedIn but is also an Artist, as you can see from his webpage. When asked what could cause a website to crash, Hackmann responded with, “That’s a very broad question. There’s probably a billion ways a site could go down.” This was a broad question but it gives a sense of scope on just how many issues could arise for a website on its maiden debut. Especially a website so anticipated that was not fully tested for high volume traffic.
When asked about the HealthCare.gov issues, Hackmann went on to say, “Looks like a two fold problem in this case. First, not enough hardware; what they have is being bogged down. Second, there’s probably a lack of adequate caching. Database reads, but especially writes, are costly and on large sites are cached or queued to memory while the database catches up.” Hackmann finished his statement with, “DB thrashing is a pretty common cause of site failures like reddit.”
HealthCare.gov is making all their revisions, updates and fixes to the site available to the public. This is something most are calling a great effort in transparency. The website boasts open-source technologies and is CMS free. What this means is that when content is edited via Prose.io it is also pushed live to the site. As stated by Dave Cole from Development Seed, “Our workflow was specifically tailored toward developers and centered on the command line and git.” Cole is referring to Git as a directory with a full repository that is not dependent on a central server or network access. GitHub is where all the code is stored and focuses on the ease of writing. GitHub is becoming a new standard for sharing and collaborative projects. According to Wired UK’s article about GitHub, users are becoming content producers. The “frontend” content or user input at HealthCare.gov is open-source and available through an API and also published on GitHub. At the developers page you can read a bit more on how to work with the API, view the prose and GitHub glossary. Currently due to misdirected bug reports the “frontend” code has been removed from GitHub.
Charles Moore. (2013). Opinion Poll. Click to Enlarge
Most websites would be overjoyed to have the hits HealthCare.gov has continued to have. Looking back can always be a lesson moving forward and HealthCare.gov is trying its best to address the issues that has plagued its bumpy rollout.
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