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Conservatives Push For Google And Microsoft To Take Over Patient Records

By Andrea Di Maio | July 14, 2009 | 4 Comments


Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault received their first blessing in Europe by the Conservative party in the UK. The Centre for Policy Studies published a report  with an intriguing title “It’s Ours – Why we, not government, must own our data”, which says:

A clear choice is emerging for the future of government IT:

  • Either to continue with the Transformational Government
    agenda. This relies on the State holding, in the words of the
    Treasury’s adviser, a “deep truth about the citizen, based
    on their behaviour, experiences, beliefs, needs and rights”,
    with huge centralised databases directing public services
    to the point of need (as judged by the State).
  • Or to abandon expensive and failing centralised IT
    projects and yield control of personal information to
    individual citizens. This is the approach that has been
    increasingly effective in the private sector.

An example: the individual citizen could, if he or she so
chose, use services such as HealthVault or Google Health to
store their health records and to communicate with their GP
or hospital. This would eliminate the need for the NHS

While one could dismiss the above as an attempt of the opposition to challenge IT programs that have been supported for a long time by the UK Labor Party, this is the first time in a long time that somebody challenges the idea of government-owned citizen records. Several EU countries have embarked on long-term programs to centralize different sorts of records, with patient records being amongst the most interesting given the costs associated to running health care.

I just published a research note about the concept of citizen data vault (subscription required) where I said that “the emergence of personal health records as cloud-based services raises the question of citizen direct control of their data versus government control and whether this would apply to other government domains. Although this is unlikely to happen in the short to midterm, it is time to start examining possible scenarios for citizen data externalization”.

As several countries are in the middle of redefining their e-government strategies, and very much so in Europe, in preparation for the EU e-government conference in Malmo, it will be interesting to watch whether there will be more references to solutions that give citizens control of their own data.

Comments are closed


  • Mark Raskino says:

    Microsoft is #1 and Google #3 in the 2009/10 list of the UK’s consumer ‘Superbrands’.( ).
    The full list is out tomorrow online and published in the Sunday Times this weekend.

    So clearly there is a lot of trust in these brands, which politicians might hope to leverage. Microsoft and Google beat the BBC, Mercedes-Benz and Coke who came further down the top 10. Sadly however, I doubt the NHS was selected by the panel as a ‘brand’ for the large consumer panel to consider.

  • I think the announcement of the Conservative Party means something more important than a redefinition of strategies: It means that eGovernment has reached its maturity and it is beginning to be another field for the political battle. This is quite important, because citizens will only be aware of the existence of eGov when politicians debate about it. Therefore, citizens will begin to demand an eGov policy according with their needs, based on demand instead of in supply. The consequence will be a wiser use of resources in the eGov field.

    More thoughts about this (in spanish, sorry):

  • Nick Jones says:

    Mark, I’m not sure that brand awareness or consumer brand value in necessarily translate to trust. If you’d asked people specifically who they trusted to store their highly private personal data then Microsoft might not have rated so highly. Some years ago I was giving a presentation at a Gartner conference and I informally asked the audience this very question: i.e. “put your hands up if you would trust Microsoft with your personal data”. In a room of a couple of hundred people only one or two put their hands up, even some of the Microsoft people in the room didn’t admit to trusting Microsoft.

    Now this was an informal poll taken during a presentation so there are lots of caveats; e.g. the audience was IT people who probably know more about Microsoft than the average consumer, and I’m sure some people who really would trust Microsoft were shy about putting their hands up in public. But the results of my infomal poll were so conclusive that I doubt brand awareness and trust are highly correlated.

  • Zaptag, a UK company is already receiving sign ups to its online personal records system, indicating that there is a demand for citizens to control their own data in the UK. it has made considerable advances in integrating and connecting health providers.