The technical issues with the Affordable Care Act website, also known as Healthcare.gov have been widely publicized in recent days, as glitzes, delays, shutdowns, and other system defects have plagued the long awaited rollout of the software for open enrollment.
The healthcare.gov website is a health information system developed for the purpose of providing information to healthcare consumers and allowing them to purchase an insurance plan or enroll in healthcare for the coming year.
The government has promised that the issues with the site will be resolved to allow the site to function as intended. The skills that are required for this work primarily involve software skills, and they are familiar to many people working in the Philadelphia area, home to many medical and healthcare, insurance, pharmaceutical, and e-commerce companies.
Building, testing, and maintaining healthcare information systems, is a large and growing industry, and a career choice that involves higher education in (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) STEM technologies, certifications, and technical experience.
Some of the issues that have been identified with the site include, integration of system components, functional and performance testing, and project management scheduling issues for meeting the October 1st deadline for putting the software into production. These skills are described below.
What is the role of project management?
Project management is the application of knowledge, tools, and techniques for completing project activities in order to achieve project goals. It is accomplished through the use of processes and a project team managing the work of the project. It involves controlling scope, time, cost, risk, and quality, and meeting the needs of stakeholders to satisfy a set of business requirements.
The stakeholders for the healthcare.gov site include millions of healthcare consumers in many states, US federal and state governments, the government authorization for the project, the contractors completing the work, and the agency responsible for implementing and completing the work.
Some of the controlling issues that were not completely satisfied include schedule and quality. There was simply not enough time left in the schedule to insure that the desired system quality was in place.
Training and certification in project management basic knowledge and practices, PMP, in software project management is available from the Project Management Institute.
What is the methodology used for e-commerce development?
In the past, software projects were managed and implemented using waterfall or iterative / spiral methods. Agile methodologies are based on an iterative approach, but with a focus on delivering working software early in the process, shorter iterations or sprints, and a focus on team interactions, collaboration with business, and responding to change. There are twelve principles to agile development methodology and extensive books and courseware devoted to teaching software engineers. Today’s software projects and information systems are likely to be built using agile methods.
There are several ways that agile methods could have helped the healthcare.gov organization. Early delivery of working software and collaboration between business stakeholders, contractors, and system integrators, could have identified working issues, such as data management, performance, and usability prior to rolling out the entire software system.
Certification in scrum, the leading agile software methodology, is available through organizations such as the Scrum Alliance.
Describe the process of system acceptance testing:
The process of testing software to ensure that it meets requirements begins early in the software development life cycle. System acceptance testing is performed by the customer before the software is put into production.
Some of the types of testing that must be performed to ensure software quality include functional tests (does the site work as expected/meet requirements), usability test (to ensure ease of use, navigation, etc.), performance testing (to ensure the site can handle the amount of users that will be using the site), and integration testing to ensure that all of the components of the site work together, including data and parts developed by multiple contractors.
Building solutions for health information system demands a knowledgeable and experienced team and project management skills. Workers in this area can gain these skills through training programs, continuing education, experience at local companies, and through trade and professional organizations. Perhaps in time, the healthcare.gov website will become an industry case study for developing health information systems.