In a world where there are more cell phones then people, where you can buy anything, anytime online, and where smart phone sales have outpaced desktops…the President mandated that the US government keep up with technology. Health and Human Services (HHS) heeded the call and is building the 21st century digital platform to ensure that technology makes a difference in people’s lives.
Counting healthcare, HHS has the largest budget of all the federal agencies. Their mission is to advance the health, safety and well-being of the nation. In their own words, they provide the building blocks for Americans to have healthy and successful lives. They do this by helping Americans:
1. Find jobs
2. Get high-quality health care
3. Find affordable childcare
4. Eat healthy and safe food that is free of infectious disease
The Secretary of HHS oversees a budget of one trillion dollars, and is responsible for 11 divisions, many of which are household names like FDA and CDC.
The 11 divisions of Health and Human Services are:
The majority of the trillion dollar budget is consumed by Medicare and Medicaid, but there is still a lot of money left over for state of the art equipment for the scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who are researching illnesses and saving lives. But most important are the guys in the really cool yellow HAZMAT suits at the Centers for Disease Control. Without those folks, we might all end up like the movie ‘Contagion.’
The President issued a directive: If agencies can build the 21st Century Digital Platform, the people will come. The 21st Century Platform will better serve the American people in three ways:
- Enable the American people and an increasingly mobile workforce to access high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.
- Ensure that as the government adjusts to this new digital world, we seize the opportunity to procure and manage devices, applications, and data in smart, secure and affordable ways.
- Unlock the power of government data to spur innovation across our nation and improve the quality of services for the American people.
HHS is doing just that. Now let’s take a look at the numbers:
By 2016, it is estimated that more people will surf the web on mobile devices more than on their desktops. HHS estimates that today 25% of all their traffic is on mobile devices. To address this they have created 62 mobile sites and apps.
Infographics are hot. HHS has now published 171 of these cool documents packed with useful data.
If infographics are hot, then APIs are on fire. HHS now has 461 API enabled databases. This means that 461 databases can be publicly accessed over the web through a published external application programming interface (API).
And now for the really big number: HHS has 1000 datasets, and that number is still growing. Having trouble sleeping? Just head over to www.HealthCare.gov and you’ll find more than enough data—way better than counting sheep.
But in all seriousness, there are now over 700 partners across the US and worldwide that are unlocking the power of government data. This is spurring innovation across the nation and fueling the app economy.
Decoupling Data & Presentation
Typically when we get information from the government, it is in the form of static reports, making it difficult to reuse. HHS is changing all that with a “create once, publish everywhere” approach. HHS is liberating their data and setting it free. The 1000 data sets and 461 API enabled databases are now available to citizens, partners and providers to use the data as they need it, unlocking its power and making it available anytime, anywhere.
The Web browser and HTML were created to be a standard, so all information could be easily shared around the world. But now Java script, XML and JSON all run inside the browser, and programmers must write pages specific to each browser. Add in mobile browsers to the mix and life gets very complicated. Mobile browsers are not just another platform, they are a completely different format. Pages must be completely redesigned to fit in the smaller space. But HHS has a trick up their sleeve—use Responsive Design. This allows web developers to design a website once. The site is “responsive” because it adapts automatically. When a user connects with a smart phone, the web server “sniffs” out the browser type and then delivers exactly the right code so your pages look perfect on an iPad, iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. Responsive Design helps HHS meet their digital strategy to provide high-quality information on any device.
Fueling the App Economy
The app economy depends on data. In the private sector, big data costs big money. But in the public sector we have troves of data…Open Data. But to make it useful HHS has been busy cleaning it all up.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has provided the world with high-quality images and data for years. Now HHS is working to provide that same kind of high-quality data for healthcare and wellness. By providing API enabled databases, HHS is helping to spur innovation in the private sector and fuel the application economy.
So let’s take a look at what mobile users really care about—mobile apps.
QuitPal It may never be as popular as PayPal, but if you’re thinking of quitting smoking you may want to check out the NCI app QuitPal.
PubMed If you are a researcher or just want the straight truth about a new drug or medical treatment, you should download the PubMed app for your smart phone. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s true just because you read it on “The Google”
But when you tally the votes, the app that really meets the mission is CDC’s new GBS.
In the US every year 1,200 infants get Group B Strep or GBS. While this common bacteria is not an issue for adults, in newborns, it’s life threatening. If left untreated, it can cause pneumonia or meningitis. Prevent GBS allows doctors to prescribe exactly the right dose of antibiotic to expectant moms at the bedside. With over six thousand downloads, this app is saving lives!
The president spoke, and agencies listened—they are building the 21st Century platform to better serve the American people.
So to see what HHS is doing today, pickup your mobile device and head over to http://www.hhs.gov/digitalstrategy/mobile/index.html
Digital Government: Building the 21st Century Platform
Fiscal Year 2015 Budget in Brief, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, http://www.hhs.gov/budget/fy2015/fy-2015-budget-in-brief.pdf
This post was authored by Nate Rushfinn, Principal Enterprise Architect at CA Technologies. You can follow Nate on Twitter @Nate_Rushfinn.