HHS wants 30% of its systems on the cloud this year

After making strides to push more systems to the cloud in 2016, HHS wants almost twice as many cloud-based systems this year.

The Department of Health and Human Services saw its cloud adoption rates skyrocket in 2016, and the agency has no intention of letting off the gas in 2017.

HHS wants to put 30% of its systems on the cloud this year, Chief Information Officer Beth Killoran said during an online chat hosted by Federal News Radio. The agency increased its cloud adoption rate from 1% in 2015—one of the lowest among all federal agencies—to 18.5% in 2016, which included a cloud upgrade for HHS’s financial systems.

That increase came several years after HHS authorized its first cloud provider in 2013 and subsequently approved several other vendors, “enabling greater competition among providers while ensuring that the services they provide meet our stringent security requirements,” Killoran said.

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Hospitals are pushing more services to the cloud and getting rid of expensive data centers, but HHS has been a slow adopter. Killoran noted that although HHS is smaller than many Fortune 500 business, effectively governing an organization with such a broad focus can be challenging. Recently, however, Medicaid got a “near historic” cloud-based update thanks to a Silicon Valley startup that took on the arduous task of collating data from disparate state-based data systems.  

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Aside from cloud computing, Killoran repeatedly 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. 

Despite small security improvements, a recent report by the Office of Inspector General found HHS is plagued by cybersecurity weaknesses that have persisted over the last several years.

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