The debacle of the Healthcare.gov launch is maddening for a lot of reasons. Most notably, because millions of people who thought they’d finally receive healthcare didn’t. There certainly is no single point of failure in an undertaking of this proportion. Precedents? Not really. Not like this. But wait a second!
For all the web folks out there, doesn’t this sound like every project you’ve ever worked on where leadership refused to look reality in the eye?
What kind of team launches a brand new, shoddily tested web application and expects that, immediately, an audience of 100+ million people are going to sign on, giggle a lot, and have a perfect experience getting through the healthcare gauntlet? Everybody has grand ambitions. This noble mission certainly isn’t without its own. But wtf!
Look at a couple of precedents. Twitter and its fail whale. Facebook in the dorm room. These apps with audiences of millions (billions?) started with just a few inquisitive users. They crashed. They flopped. They iterated. They improved … over time.
I deeply sympathize with the poor fella who flipped the DNS switch, threw up his arms, and said “welp, fuck it.” You totally know that’s how it went down.
Failure is a constant and necessary side step in every venture’s journey to success. As a web guy, a product manager, and a regular old business guy, I don’t understand how precedent and modesty weren’t woven into the fabric of the leadership team building this HealthCare.gov site. How much of their own Kool-Aid did they down before deciding how to communicate expectations to the millions of Americans waiting on this?
Maybe this is all a manufactured-for-tv drama. To quote the ever wise (if occasionally raunchy) Louis C.K.: “Give it a second!”.
Things will get better. They have already. But it’s going to take a long time to ramp up and meet all those lofty expectations. Just like every single web app before it.
Nothing about healthcare is simple. It’s human lives. It’s bureaucracy. It’s billions upon billions of dollars. And therein lies the biggest disappointment about this. All the people still out there waiting on healthcare who’ve had their hopes dashed? They deserve better from the country that invented the internet.