Overhaul of Medicare websites focuses on transparency, usability

Agency awards $73.2 million contract for upgrades to incorporate user feedback.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is using mandates from the Obama administration's open government directive as an opportunity to improve its public-facing websites.

CGI Federal, an information technology solutions provider, on Tuesday announced it had received a five-year, $73.2 million contract to continue improving Medicare.gov, cms.hhs.gov and MyMedicare.gov. The three websites provide Medicare information to 44 million beneficiaries in addition to health care providers and caregivers.

Improving self-service, complying with the open government directive and making high-value data available to the public are key priorities for the project, said CGI Federal Senior Vice President Cheryl Campbell, adding the goal is to support CMS' mission of education, outreach and service to its stakeholders.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in March announced the launch of a redesigned Medicare.gov. In a YouTube video, she highlighted the importance of feedback from beneficiaries in building a usable source for Medicare information.

"The real benefit is it involves real users," Campbell said. "We're soliciting input on values and functionality and website redesign. Anyone in the process of establishing a portal from an agency perspective should be looking at this."

CGI is on the lookout for ways to make the three sites more user-friendly and to further integrate them, she added.

The company has supported CMS for 12 years and also has worked with the Food and Drug Administration and Federalreporting.gov, a site for collecting information on Recovery Act awards.