Friday, October 28, 2005

Seniors Enraged Over Web site Flops

Well, that's not quite how the headline went in the Salt Lake Tribune but that was the gist of the article. Medicare's website has been promising since October 13th to have a web application deployed that would compare the costs of various drugs to seniors under different prescription insurance plans. Right now in Utah, for example, there are 50 such plans available. The Tribune covered a meeting at the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City yesterday where seniors remain confused by Medicare's new prescription drug benefit. Sally Brown from the Utah Division of Aging expressed the crowd's frustrations when she said: "We just have to wait until that stupid Web site is up and running."

I guess we have come a long way from Web sites that were "brochure-ware" with the director's picture the size of a small pachyderm displayed next to "under construction" signs that blinked at you in yellow or orange and graced with content that was almost always many months out of date.

A mission critical component of the Medicare program grinds to a halt when a web application doesn't get delivered on time. I want to make the point of reminding people that after the dot.com crash it was the rage was to give e-government a premature burial and assign it to the trash heap of irrelevance, and then gloat about it to boot. Maybe the "diviners" and "prognosticators" spoke it bit too soon.

I interviewed Matt Mizewski, the CIO of Wisconsin and the new NASCIO President this past week and asked him if he thought "E-government was dead." He said what essentially was "dead" was the hype surrounding it, but the need for web-enabled services was more important than ever before. The Medicare debacle drives this point home.

There will come a time in the future where lack of access or interruptions in web services will lead to large protests and maybe unfortunately in some cases, even riots. In the meantime, three cheers for Sally Brown. You go girl!

In support for my former boss and now HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt...I'm sure he is lighting a number of fires right now so some people will feel the heat. He knows the power of IT. Now its his challenge to get all 60,000 of his employees and contractors (including the project manager over the Medicare Web site) to feel his passion in the same way he does, and then translate that passion into some concrete actions.

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