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Progress on Capacity

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Today, Jeff Zients offered an update on our efforts to improve HealthCare.gov; data on key metrics on site performance, the progress made this week and the view looking forward.  

In late October, we appointed QSSI as the general contractor to deploy their expertise in technology and program management to lead this project forward.

The team from QSSI continues to work with people from CMS and other contractors around the clock to troubleshoot the system, prioritize fixes, and provide real-time management decision making.

Thanks to this team effort, we have made measurable progress.

Before providing some specifics on this week, remember what we said at the end of October: HealthCare.gov will work smoothly for the vast majority of users by the end of November.

We’re on track to do so.

We have two objectives: addressing capacity shortfalls and managing volume, and improving user experience. 

Both are necessary to support the President’s goal that every American has access to affordable quality health coverage.

In terms of capacity, HealthCare.gov will be able to operate at the capacity that was originally intended: a rate of approximately 50,000 users on the site at the same time.

It’s important to keep in mind here, that this is not a simple website. Rather, it’s a complex system doing complicated work.

The system needs to process the millions upon millions of unique circumstances that consumers present. It needs to determine eligibility for hundreds of state and county-level programs and all their permutations. And it needs to factor in subsidy levels based on family size, income, and plan selection.

This is much more than a website for browsing or conducting routine transactions.

With that context, and the capacity we will have by the end of the month, this means the system will be able to accommodate more than 800,000 visits a day from consumers who are seeking information, filling out applications, shopping, and enrolling.

In terms of our second objective, improving the site experience, the vast majority of users will not experience the error messages, slow response times, and system outages that characterized their experience in October.

The system will not work perfectly. But it will operate smoothly for the vast majority of users.

We have said from the beginning that HealthCare.gov is fixable. And we are working around the clock to do just that.

While there will not be a magic moment at the end of the month when the work will be complete, users coming to the site today are already having a greatly improved experience. The site will be better at the end of the month than it is today, and it will continue to improve thereafter.

This past week HealthCare.gov was stable, with the exception of an unscheduled outage on Wednesday and a short period on Tuesday.

On our key operating metrics, response times and error rates, we continue to make progress. For most users, speed and response times were good and error rates were low.

This past week, average response time for most users has been under 1 second. That compares to the first few weeks after the site launched when we estimate that users were waiting an average of eight seconds for pages across the site to load.

Having response time under one second is a significant improvement.

In terms of the site’s error rate, last week we reported it was 1percent. This week, we’ve driven it down to .75 percent. As a reminder, a few weeks ago the error rate was 6 percent.

We are also seeing marked improvements as a result of the more than 300 software improvements, bug fixes, and hardware upgrades we’ve made across the last several weeks.

We have a new prioritized list of 50 additional fixes and improvements that we’re focused on for the upcoming week.

Notably, while we will continue to fix bugs and make improvements throughout the system, the priority fixes we’re focused on now are mostly aimed at improving the user experience further along in the process: in Plan Compare, in Shopping; and in Enrollment.

During peak periods of volume, some users still experience slower response times. Right now, the system is able to maintain good performance with about 25,000 users in the system at the same time. This compares favorably to a few weeks ago when, at lower volumes, the system was often unstable.

This increase in performance results from hardware, software and infrastructure upgrades and fixes that we have implemented to increase the system’s capacity.

These improvements will continue this weekend as the team will be installing additional hardware capacity in the computing, storage, and database environments.

These upgrades, and others planned for next week, will allow us to serve increasingly higher volumes and to double the current capacity to 50,000 users at the same time.

HealthCare.gov was originally intended to handle this load and the improvements we’re making will bring it up to this level so that the site will have the capacity that was intended. We will continue to evaluate ongoing capacity needs.

Now, to be clear, there will be times that volume on HealthCare.gov will exceed this capacity. To specifically prepare for those times when spikes in user volume outstrip the systems’ expanded capacity, we will deploy a customer-friendly queuing system to handle these spikes by serving consumers in an orderly fashion and by allowing consumers to request email notifications when it’s a  better time to come back to the site.

Stepping back, we’ve made a lot of progress working through our punch list, and the consumer experience is much better.

We’re on track to more than double today’s capacity, so that each day, the site will be able to accommodate more than 800,000 visits from consumers who are seeking information, filling out applications, shopping, and enrolling.

We have work to do to further improve the system and user experience. It’s likely as we move forward, we’ll find additional glitches and experience intermittent periods of sub-optimal performance.

Our bottom line is that we’ve made measurable progress in getting the site working smoothly for the vast majority of users.


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Submitted by Lisa on
Agree with JEP. When do you fix it so people who have already started application can continue without hitting the wall, system is temporarily down? 7 days after talking to rep who said to keep trying 7 days of repeatedly answering the same questions that aren't saved in identity, 7 days later and income information that was provided is no longer found, 7 days of starting income info over and site is temporarily down. When does that get fixed? I'm thinking it would have been better to wait until Dec 10 and even then you have to worry if the site will work. I can't imagine people starting this in Oct and still working on it. How frustrating.
Submitted by allen on
Questions raised by JEP are spot on. You should attempt to answer them. Even if your answer is "I don't know".
Submitted by Joe on
1 % error? Why am I always in the 1%. I just want to sign up. This blog is nothing but excuses and does not help me at all.
Submitted by roosevelt louis on
I fill one application by phone 3weeks I am not receive any call
Submitted by Karen on
Stuck in the verify identification section of my application. PLEASE fix this section so that those with apps that are in progress and stuck in the I.d. verify can finally move on and be able to shop for a plan. My high risk insurance pool coverage expires 12/31/2013.
Submitted by Glynis on
Others stuck in this same place were successful enrolling in a plan after creating a new account with a new username, new password, and new email address. Delete your cookies and temporary internet files first. Be very careful with the format of your answers and follow the examples they give exactly as they look. If they use a dollar sign in one place, then enter a dollar sign. If they don't use it in another, then don't enter one. Same thing with entering cents. Also, don't add any decimals to any place they don't, like to hours worked, round up or down. And your name should be exactly as it appears on your Social Security card.
Submitted by JAJ on
I agree with the comment of JEP. I submitted my application on Oct 13 and it has been stuck in never-never land ever since. The website tells me it is "in progress" and when I look at the application detail it tells me my application is incomplete. Despite the fact that I have repeated the application process at least a dozen times, it never gets beyond the "in progress", "incomplete" status. As a matter of fact, now when I try to complete the application I can get to the point of entering the family information but as soon as I try to save the summary information I get the "OOPS our system is down" error message. In my opinion, the system is still dysfunctional and in some regards worse then before. For many and I mean many of us, time is running out and no one seems to know or is able to get the existing "stuck" applications moving through the system.
Submitted by linda on
There must be a way to delete incomplete application submitted on Oct 18. Cannot complete it for it takes me back to square one. must complete application.. Information will not save. Im also in verifacction pending progress. Please clear up thousands of these applications that are in a black hole . I have uploaded my drivers license and am still in pending. Time is running short for us who will be losing coverage on Dec 21st... Been through the same song and dance with customer reps who dont do a darn thing except apologize and forward our call to someone else who does not call back after 2 to 7 business days... I have gone through that three times since Oct 18... JUST CREATE A DELETE PROGRAM... Maybe we should get TI help from INDIA
Submitted by JH on
The site still is generating errors for me and although I have previously gotten as far as the income section the site keeps making me enter ~10% of data in the 1st section and errors out after the final summary which shows all items being correctly filled. The chat help appears to be reading off a script and are completely unhelpful. The 800 number drops calls but I finally got through and escalated my problems and I was promised I would get a call back this coming week. All in all the site is still not functioning and I don't believe the extremely low error rates being mentioned in these blogs
Submitted by Phyllis on
When are you going to address the problem that I can't get past the part where the tobacco use is.