Google is set to make a bid to win over the NHS, after agreeing a deal to buy a $200 million care planning network in the US.
The deal has been welcomed by the NHS in the UK and US, with the deal potentially enabling the NHS to run its own private-sector IT systems to provide more flexible, high-value care and make better use of resources.
In the US, the deal will see Google set up a new private-healthcare IT company to manage its own network, which is being overseen by a US regulator.
“We’re pleased to announce that we’ve entered into an agreement to acquire and manage the US Department of Health’s $200 Million (about £150 million) IT system for the purpose of providing innovative and cost-effective health care services,” said Larry Page, the co-founder and chairman of Alphabet.
Google will take over the Care Planning Network in 2019 and run it as a private company for up to five years.
Google has previously built its own system in Europe, called the European Digital Healthcare Network, and is also working with several other companies to expand its health care technology in other parts of the world.
Google is not the only company to take up the role of running a private health care IT system.
Apple is working on a private healthcare IT platform called HealthKit, which will allow Apple users to monitor health data from its own cloud.
It is also partnering with a private US company, Medtronic, to develop and release a new health monitoring app for iOS devices.
“Google is one of the biggest tech companies in the world and we are looking forward to partnering with them to make the world’s most powerful healthcare system even more flexible and affordable,” said Tony Wyllie, chief executive of the UK-based Care Quality Commission.
Google, which has around 15 million users in the United States, has been in talks with the US government for months to buy the CarePlan network.
The US Department for Health has a plan to build a new network of private health services for the NHS but there has been no official commitment from Google yet.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is also looking at building a new service for private healthcare, according to the Guardian.
Google and the NHS have long been at odds, with Google being accused of using its dominance in search to take advantage of the NHS’s ageing healthcare system and with the government saying that the NHS needs private providers to run some services.
The company has also been criticised for its lack of transparency about its plans to run private health insurance.
However, in a recent interview with CNBC, Page said Google was open to taking over private health providers if it made it clear to them that they should use the services they’re running on Google’s infrastructure.
Google says it is currently running a small number of healthcare systems, including a $50 million network in Texas, and says it would consider more private health provider options in the future.