State of Maryland Transforms Social Services Using AWS

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The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) designed and built Maryland’s Total Human-services Integrated Network (MD THINK) to deliver integrated health and human services programs to the state’s most vulnerable residents. By building this first-in-the-nation cloud-based platform, Maryland agencies can gain a holistic view of citizens receiving benefits and analyze data across agencies to design better assistance programs.

“We can really transform how we deliver human services to Marylanders using MD THINK,” says John Evans, chief information security officer, Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT). “With master data management, we can improve service to children in foster care and to families in need, as well as those living in poverty. We will ultimately drive better outcomes for them, becoming proactive in our service.”

Before MD THINK, data about social programs were stored in disparate systems owned by several agencies, which made cross-program collaboration challenging. “We recognized an opportunity to provide citizens with more comprehensive and coordinated assistance across our agencies and we needed an integrated platform to achieve our citizen-centric vision,” says Evans.

Maryland Builds Human Services Platform Starting with Data Integration

“We can really transform how we deliver human services to our state’s citizens using MD THINK on AWS.”

John Evans, Chief Information Security Officer, Maryland Department of Information Technology

  • About Maryland DHS
  • Benefits of AWS
  • AWS Services Used
  • About Maryland DHS
  • The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) is the state’s primary social service provider, serving over 2 million people each year. The Department, through its 24 local departments of social services, assists people in economic need, provides preventive services, and protects vulnerable children and adults in each of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.

  • Benefits of AWS
    • Drives cross-agency collaboration and gives agencies easier data access through a shared data repository
    • Provides enhanced service delivery to state residents
    • Ensures data integrity and reduces fraud through secure encryption
    • Reduces costs, lowers implementation time
  • AWS Services Used

Building a New Health and Human Services Platform Using AWS

The Maryland Department of Human Services led the effort to create MD THINK, a secure cloud-based technology platform for human services programs that would run applications now and into the future. “We needed to quickly establish a framework for long-term application migration and build a shared data repository,” says Subramanian Muniasamy, chief technology officer, DHS. “We knew the cloud was the right technology to get us there.”

Following an evaluation of various cloud options, DHS chose to build the platform using Amazon Web Services (AWS). “AWS is far ahead of everyone else in the cloud space, from a functionality, security, and cost perspective—so the decision was easy,” says Evans.

Working with trusted advisors from Deloitte Consulting, DHS designed and launched MD THINK as a multi-agency platform in six months, and the first application on the platform was live within nine months of receiving Authority to Operate (ATO). The infrastructure automation built into the platform has reduced the environment configuration and deployment time from weeks to minutes. MD THINK is now in the process of onboarding and integrating numerous human-services applications administered by state agencies, including the Maryland Department of Human Services, Maryland Department of Health, Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, and the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. As agencies migrate or build new applications, MD THINK provides a secure and cost-effective platform that is compliant with IRS Pub 1075, NIST, FISMA, and MARS-E.

The MD THINK platform runs on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances in multiple availability zones within AWS East Region 1. It operates a data warehouse, document store, reporting and analytics, and master data-management system on the platform using third party databases and tools, which are deployed on Amazon EC2, Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS), and Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS). DHS also uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for the platform’s database and takes advantage of Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) for Docker container orchestration, which gives DHS the ability to easily run and scale containerized applications on the AWS Cloud. Now, agencies requiring application modernization and new systems to support mission-critical operations can migrate quickly and share data more seamlessly.

The Maryland Department of Human Services manages MD THINK security and compliance requirements such as HIPAA, IRS 1075, MARS-E, FISMA and NIST, and each agency seeking to migrate an application to MD THINK can leverage built-in security and compliance controls on AWS.

Improving Case Worker Efficiency

Using MD THINK, thousands of case workers will be able to securely access and enter social-service data from their tablets or smartphones in the field—rather than traveling to an office before logging in to the system—because the platform provides web-based access. “Many of our case workers will be able to operate more efficiently because they can get the most updated data while in the field,” says Muniasamy. “They will not have to input proof of income or ID data, because that will be prepopulated and validated through the MD THINK database and workflows.”

Reducing Operational Costs

DHS has lowered its costs by developing and running its new platform on AWS. “We are seeing savings on operations and maintenance costs, because each agency no longer has to build and manage software on its own,” Muniasamy says. “Additionally, the flexibility of AWS enables us to spin resources up or down based on agency need, so we are not paying for virtual servers we’re not using.”

The organization also saves development time by transforming to a DevOps methodology. “Because we have an integrated DevOps pipeline now, we are saving implementation time by developing components and features faster,” says Muniasamy. “Security of the overall platform is also improved, because we build security checks into the process before any code is deployed.”

Eliminating Fraud by Ensuring Data Integrity

By enabling the sharing of real-time data across all state agencies, MD THINK helps ensure data integrity and in turn eliminate fraud and reduce the risk for abuse of state services. “We have improved the integrity of data throughout the state system by providing this shared data repository,” says Muniasamy. “By cross-referencing data, we can identify anomalies in benefit payments and take action to investigate further.”

As MD THINK is rolled out to additional state agencies in the coming months, DHS will further its goal of improving agency collaboration and service delivery. “This is a first-in-the-nation human services platform,” says Evans. “We are confident it will increase the efficiency of our agencies, so we can better deliver critical services to the people who need them in Maryland.”


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