Sun, iSoft to play key roles in UK health project

ISoft PLC has won key positions as the health care application service provider (ASP) on three of the multibillion-dollar contracts Britain’s National Health Service awarded this month.

Sun Microsystems Inc. is another big winner in Britain’s NHS IT program. Charles Andrews, director of public-sector sales at Sun in the U.K., said that British Telecommunications PLC in London has tapped Sun to provide practically every piece of hardware and software in its line for BT’s US$1.1 billion contract awarded Dec. 8 to develop, deliver and manage a national electronic patient database for 50 million patients in England.

ISoft will provide health care application software for the winners of three of the NHS IT local service provider (LSP) contracts, including Accenture Ltd. in Hamilton, Bermuda, which won the US$1.6 billion LSP contract for the Eastern region of England on Tuesday and the US$1.9 billion LSP contract for the Northeast of England on Dec. 8. The LSP contractors will develop regionwide IT infrastructures to hook into the national patient database being developed by BT Group.

Computer Sciences Corp. in El Segundo, Calif., also chose Manchester, England-based iSoft as its health care ASP for the US$1.7 billion LSP contract it won Tuesday for the North West and Midlands regions. ISoft officials weren’t available for comment.

Sun’s Andrews said his company would provide BT Group with “the software stack, the application server and the directory which will serve as the core part of the patient record.” Andrews added that on the hardware side, Sun will provide NHS IT with eight of its massive Sun Fire 15K servers, powered by up to 106 1.2-GHz processors and storage based on its StorEdge 9900 family.

Richard Harris, health marketing manager at Syntegra, BT’s systems integration subsidiary, said the company expects to have the national electronic patient record database, which will be based on Oracle database software, up and running by June, though it won’t be populated with all records at that time. Andrews said BT/Syntegra will require “tens of terabytes of storage.”

The database will eventually “hold a summary patient record for everyone in England,” Harris said, including name, age and key medical information such as doctor visits, hospital admissions, conditions, treatments and discharge dates. But finer details of hospital stays will be held locally, Harris said.

Harris said BT/Syntegra will also develop an electronic prescription system that will eventually allow doctors to electronically write and send a prescription to the pharmacy nearest the patient.

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