U.K. mulls handing off national health records to Microsoft, Google

Conservatives reportedly pushing for privitization

The British government is reportedly preparing a plan to give national health records to either Google or Microsoft, rather than creating a massive government database. Reports of the plan have sparked vigorous debates in the United Kingdom

The plan, as described in the reports, would privatize the National Programme for Information Technology’s Care Records Service. The government would entrust health records to either Microsoft HealthVault or Google Health.

Britain’s National Audit Office warns that the government's digitization project is over budget and behind schedule, with a total cost to taxpayers of more than 12.7 billion British pounds sterling, the BBC said.

The privatization plan is not yet firm, the BBC said, and the politicians are looking at reviews they have commissioned from a panel of experts.

Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault are services that allow individuals to hold their medical records in a central location.

Microsoft officials told the BBC they are in talks with the National Health Service to offer HealthVault as an add-on rather than a replacement for the Care Records Service, the BBC said.

“The most pressing issue is that almost 9 million households in Britain do not have access to the Internet. Health experts fear that such a move could penalize the most vulnerable in society,” wrote Sam Coates in the TimesOnline.

The proposal has aroused controversy because of the close ties between a Conservative party official and Google, according to the Guardian newspaper.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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