Obamacare, Telecom and IT

Carl Weinschenk

It’s hard to pick up a newspaper--if, indeed, anyone does that anymore--watch television or visit a news site without running into the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare. The interest, especially among those who don’t like it, is peaking as the opening of the exchanges in which people will be able to shop for health care insurance approaches.

The politics of Obamacare is one thing. The IT and telecom issues are another. And they are serious.

The Washington Times, which has a strong reputation for being anti-Obama, last week posted a story pointing out significant problems with the technical preparations for Obamacare. The writer says that deadlines have not been met and rules on records safety have not been set. A main cause, the piece says, is that so many outside companies are involved in various parts of the gargantuan program and that melding systems together is taking longer than expected. The story runs through what it portrays as a technical disaster waiting to happen.

The vital security element, at least, seems to be in better shape than the Washington Times article suggests. Reuters reported yesterday that The Hub, the nickname of system that supports Obamacare, has been tested and deemed secure by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).


The back-end challenges notwithstanding, there are other ways in which modern IT and telecommunications technology will be front and center in Obamacare. At CIO Insight, C.J. Ravi Sankar writes that the great changes the new health care law will rely upon social media, mobility and big data and analytics. Harnessing these technologies will be a long-term work in progress, however:

Building organizational capabilities on emerging technologies is always challenging as there are competing visions, plus not-yet-mature standards and options. Innovative CIOs are leveraging third-party partners to build the initial use cases while internal teams learn from these projects. Partners that deliver superior customer experiences and provide a combination of payer domain expertise and best practices from other industries will have an advantage over traditional partners.

The Affordable Care Act is, of course, a monumental social undertaking. It also demands creation and maintenance of a tremendous technology infrastructure. The truth is probably some place midway between total readiness and impending chaos. This Medical Daily note, for instance, suggests that problems are appearing, and are being dealt with.

Expect news of problems when the exchanges launch. At the end of the day, however, there is plenty of money that vendors and consultants can make righting the ship. Expect that to happen as well.



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