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Tue October 22, 2013
Three Ways Healthcare.gov Went Wrong -- And A Texas Company Offers To Fix It For Free
So what's behind the traffic jam at healthcare.gov? With the help of Dallas tech guru Mark Haider, and his simple highway analogy, you'll be an expert in no time.
After the not-so laudable launch of healthcare.gov, Haidar made Obama an offer:
— Mark Haidar (@markhaidar) October 17, 2013
Mark Haidar, co-CEO of Dialexa – has worked on everything from a surveillance system for the Nigerian navy, to a system that will print 3D teeth from 2D scans. I asked him to take a moment away from his desk and sum up the mistakes software developers at healthcare.gov made.
1. Not optimizing computer code: The instructions you write for a computer to complete a task is called code. The more efficient and clear your code, the faster, lighter and cleaner your application will run. Haidar says the coders at healthcare.gov wrote inefficient code.
- The highway analogy: Say you’re giving someone instructions to go from Austin to Dallas, Haidar says. he most efficient set of instructions would be to take the highway that connects the two cities together. An inefficient set of instructions would be to go first to San Antonio, then to Houston and finally catch the highway that connects to Dallas. "Even though the result is the same, the difference is one set of instructions gets you there faster.”
2. Skimping on server infrastructure: Servers are where the set of instructions, or the code, is executed. Haidar says when you're building an application that will be used by millions of users, like healthcare.gov, you know you'll need lots of servers. In this situation, the servers weren't capable of handling the load.
- The highway analogy: If you’re building a highway between Austin and Dallas, Haidar says, one of the most important decisions to make is is how many lanes to put in. That calculation will depend on how many cars will use the highway. “If your rationale was that one lane would be just fine," Haidar says, "we know for a fact you will have tremendous traffic or a complete shutdown, and that’s exactly what happened with healthcare.gov."
3. Overlooking user experience: User experience is how people interact with your application. When you design a scaleable application, Haidar says you want to make sure you don’t create a bottleneck where all of your users are doing the same thing at the same time. By demanding users to sign up on healthcare.gov before browsing any health insurance policies, Haidar says at the launch of the new site, everyone was hitting the sign-up area on the system at the same time.
- The highway analogy: “It’s like if you had a five-lane highway,” Haidar says, but your only access is a single toll booth that only accepts cash.