Maryland Forging Ahead With Cloud-Enabled Services Platform

The State of Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) is making big strides in a two-year campaign to create an AWS-powered technology environment that will integrate the state’s health and human service applications to more effectively deliver services to state residents.

The environment– Maryland Total Human-Services Integrated Network, or MD THINK – aims to allow Maryland’s Social Service Administration, Family Investment Administration, and Child Support Administration to share and manage data on one platform in the cloud. That’s according to DHS Chief Technology Officer Subramanian Muniasamy who spoke about the project at the AWS Public Sector Summit.

“This is a cloud-based technology platform we are building to integrate all these three programs,” Muniasamy said. And it may be a sign of further change to come, as the CTO said MD THINK can be expanded to other agencies as well.

An accumulation of aging IT technologies that produced poor results was the driving force behind the project, the CTO said.

DHS’s programs were mired in isolated architectures, siloed data, and passive systems. Those results in expensive maintenance, difficulties in creating modifications, and most importantly, poor customer experience, Muniasamy said. IT staff struggled with point-to-point access control and governance, and data integrity was weak compared to the alternative of an integrated cloud platform.

“We are trying to … minimize the data collection redundancy,” Muniasamy said. “By doing that, we will be able to maintain the data integrity across the board. … You will be able to mitigate or minimize the fraud, waste, and abuse.”

All that began to change in 2017 when DHS began its cloud procurement process, established a steering committee for the tech overhaul project, and ultimately adopted AWS cloud services as the new home for its data.

After a couple years of development, DHS has plans to deploy its Child, Juvenile, and Adult Management systems onto MD THINK. Next on the horizon is integrating the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange’s application. DHS will spend the next two years onboarding programs and other agency applications, and aims to make MD THINK fully operational by 2021.

Muniasamy ticked off a list of benefits MD THINK will bring to residents, case workers, and the state:

  • The benefit of maintaining data on a single, integrated platform, provides a modernized cloud-based resource with a “no wrong door” approach for various health and human services;
  • The state will see lower costs through hosting service consolidation;
  • Service delivery speed will pick up through reducing bother paper-based processes and duplicative data entry; and
  • Service quality will jump due to shorter enrollment turnaround times, driven by a streamlined eligibility determination process.

Concrete progress is already underway, in the form of seven Authority to Operate approvals, 20 AWS accounts provisioned, 65 application environments created, and 2,000 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances.

MD THINK has 30,000 external and 1,000 internal users onboarded, as well as 30 AWS products deployed. The user base and application count will continue to grow as DHS continues to develop MD THINK and to migrate agency data onto the platform.

Muniasamy said other government IT teams shouldn’t be afraid to take a dive in the deep end and embrace cloud adoption as well.

“The ‘fast and furious’ is a key to really make the success,” he said. “It’s a huge risk we are taking, but somebody has to take a risk.”

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