2. I saw in your comments on HHS in the Loop that HealthCare.gov was built “in 90 days, by the deadline set in the law.” Can you say more about the law (assuming this is part of the historic health care legislation)?
Under the Affordable Care Act, we had to launch by July 1. Here’s a site that describes what the web portal needs to be and do under the law: http://www.hhs.gov/ociio/regulations/webportal/index.html
3. What did it take to complete this project in 90 days? Who was involved (i.e. cross-disciplinary teams, citizens, number of people, etc.)?
Blood, sweat and caffeine on the part of a team of dedicated people. At least 50 people from across HHS had direct hands on some aspect of the project, and many more provided critical support. The vibe was as much of a tech startup as it was a typical site launch.
4. What were some of the challenges along the way and how did you overcome them quickly?
On the tech side, this was a huge lift in many ways: We had the assistance of a wonderful contractor, who helped us build the insurance-finder portion of the site. There were challenges all along the way, not the least of which was clearance of all content by multiple stakeholders. Still, we managed to present complicated information in plain language.
5. What has been the citizen response in the first few weeks?
We implemented a feedback tool asking visitors if a specific page was helpful (yes or no), and providing the option for additional comments. In the two months since we have launched Healthcare.gov, we have received over 15,000 yes responses. Healthcare.gov received more than 4,200 comments in the first two weeks, of which about 75 percent of them were positive, expressing appreciation for the helpful info. Of course not all feedback is positive, and we consider this project a collaboration with our users, using the comments to help direct website improvements. For example, we’ve added more information about the Medicare “donut hole” in drug coverage after many people told us they were confused. It’s also very useful to have tens of thousands of proofreaders. Overall, we will use this feedback to strengthen the usability of the site and clarify the website content. Also, the blog, Healthcare Notes, will address several of the comment topics and questions.
6. I see that your are translating the website into Spanish – any other languages? Do you have to translate line by line or are there easy, one-click, open source tools that you’re using for translation?
The Latino community has the highest un-insured rates in the nation, and for that reason Spanish was the first priority for translation. HHS uses a professional translation company specializing in website translation. Typically the translation company scans the site and then provides a word bank of translations for key terms specific to the topic of the site. A team of bilingual specialists reviews the translations in the word bank and works with related Government agencies to make sure terms, like “health care,” are translated consistently across agencies. With the word bank approved, a site typically takes 90 days to translate. However, due to the importance of this website and the need for immediate translation, the launch of the Spanish HealthCare.gov site took place in roughly six weeks
8. Anything else you’d like to share with government colleagues as they launch similar projects?
We developed the site using the Agile model—using multi-disciplinary teams to build separate parts of the project simultaneously, then bringing them all together. Our content, graphics and operations teams are co-located, allowing for face-to-face communications, constant collaboration and efficient iteration.