Government // Enterprise Architecture
News
4/28/2009
01:40 PM
50%
50%

U.K. Imposes Deadline To Fix Sick E-Health Program

The CIO of Britain's Department of Health says outsourcers working on the long-delayed project have seven months to get it right -- or they may have to get out.

In a sign that U.S. President Barack Obama's push for e-health records could face significant technical roadblocks, U.K. authorities overseeing a similar effort have become so frustrated with the lack of progress that they're threatening to yank contracts from contractors tasked with implementing the $19 billion plan.

U.K. Department of Health CIO Christine Connelly said outsourcers working on the National Health Services' Program for IT must make significant progress on the effort by the end of November or face "alternative approaches," including the possible termination of contracts.

"At this point, we're not ruling anything out," Connelly said in an interview published Tuesday by the Financial Times.

Each vendor on the U.K. team is tasked with providing software and services for a specific "node" on the nationwide system. The plan includes a Care Records Service that will provide an electronic record of all of a patient's interactions with the health care system, accessible to doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and emergency personnel throughout the country. British Telecom is to build a central network, or spine, that will connect all of the nodes.

The contractors include BT, Computer Sciences Corp., Cerner, and iSoft. Fujitsu quit the project last year amid mounting losses on the project, which is four years behind schedule. The project has been plagued by delays caused by everything from software incompatibilities to resistance from U.K. physicians.

"These systems don't talk to each other," said Dr. Richard Vautrey, former head of the IT committee at the British Medical Association, a group that represents U.K. physicians, in a 2005 interview shortly after the project was launched. "It's proving very difficult to link all these systems in a meaningful way; you can't start to share information."

In the United States, meanwhile, Obama has said he wants all Americans' health records digitized by 2014. The hope is that e-records will reduce costs while speeding and improving patient care. It's also hoped that e-records will allow health officials to spot emerging outbreaks -- such as the current swine flu epidemic -- while they're still containable.

The United Kingdom's experience, while providing a valuable blueprint for the United States, also shows that such a problem can pose numerous management challenges and technical difficulties.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on government IT priorities. Download the report here (registration required).

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.