Jeff Rowe, Editor, Future Care

Jeff Rowe is the editor of Future Care and a veteran healthcare journalist and blogger who has reported extensively on initiatives to improve the healthcare system at the local, regional and national level.

HHS aims to move more services to the cloud

March 30, 2017 AT 9:16 PM

In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services significantly increased its adoption rate of cloud services, and there are no plans to slow that pace in 2017.

In a Federal News Radio online interview this week, HHS Chief Information Officer Beth Killoran said the agency plans to increase the adoption rate of cloud services this year from 18.5 percent to 30 percent of its systems.

With the creation of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program in May 2013, HHS became the first federal agency to authorize a cloud service provider, and Killoran said cloud adoption went from 1 percent in 2015 to 18.5 percent in 2016 -- including an HHS financial system upgrade. The agency currently uses a dozen approved cloud service providers.

“This sponsorship has enabled the Federal government greater competition among providers while ensuring that the services they provide meet our stringent security requirements,” Killoran said.

“We have worked to embrace cloud,” she said. “If you do cloud properly, the implementation should be transparent to the workforce. When we did our financial systems upgrade last year, we had to provide training on the new capabilities -- not the platform. The effort has been a great success.”

Killoran noted that although HHS is smaller than many Fortune 500 business, effectively governing an organization with such a broad focus can be challenging.

Moreover, in addition cloud computing, Killoran emphasized the agency’s focus on cybersecurity and said protecting data and systems from a cyberattack is the number one issue that keeps her up at night. She added that cybersecurity, privacy and end-of-life legacy systems—which consume 70% of the agency's IT budget—were the top three IT challenges facing HHS in the next year. 

“Our goal is to provide our employees with the tools necessary to perform their jobs and accomplish their mission,” she said. “We have worked to provide employees with laptops, smartphones and WIFI, but have to balance these capabilities with our cyber-risks.”