The government's decision to allow local health care providers greater freedom of choice in IT systems may open the door to firms like Microsoft and Google, both of which are eager to sell their electronic patient record-keeping systems.
The department of health's director general of informatics Christine Connelly said on Thursday the government wanted to create an environment in which a number of different systems can integrate well.
"The department will leave it to the people who will use those systems to decide for themselves if they want to use Microsoft's products (HealthVault), Google's products (Google Health), or somebody else's," Christine Connelly said. "We will look forward and say this is what we think of these systems and give people advice, rather than as before, this is a system that you will use."
Connelly said that she did talk regularly to firms like Microsoft, but that the department did not have an active programme investigating the Redmond software house's health care software.
"We're looking at lots of different systems, but we are not particularly looking at Microsoft and Google in an evaluation kind of way," Connelly said. She said this was important because it allowed the department to influence the development of the product in such as way it could benefit the department.
Connelly's comments are a sequel to earlier reports that health care records could be transferred to Microsoft or Google under a Conservative government.
At the time, The Times questioned Tory links to Google. It said Steve Hilton, an advisor to then Opposition leader David Cameron, was married to Rachel Whetstone, Google's vice-president of global communications and public affairs. In 2007 Cameron addressed a Google Zeitgeist conference in San Francisco, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt was joining a Conservative business forum to advise on economic policy.
Google declined to comment, and Microsoft did not respond by press time.