The British National Health Service (NHS) has signed a massive software licensing deal with Microsoft. The deal will ultimately save the NHS $625 million in licensing fees, as well as requiring that Microsoft invest nearly $100 million into new health-specific applications to further the nation’s health-related IT goals.
The new arrangement allows the NHS to use up to 900,000 licenses for the same cost as the current deal, which allows up to 500,000 licenses. The NHS has invested heavily in Microsoft technologies, leveraging the capabilities of many of the more advanced server products and pushing Microsoft in new directions while they’re at it. This deal will only strengthen that relationship and strengthen Microsoft’s growing commitment to the healthcare sector, an area that has typically been underutilized and practically ignored by the software giant in some parts of the world.
The NHS is by far one of the most advanced, in IT terms, healthcare organizations on the planet. Investing nearly $100 billion annually into IT in an effort to standardize all patient services, combine all patient records and provide one of the highest levels of IT service and responsiveness currently available.
Ultimately the deal is likely to raise the ire of Open Source advocates and software companies the world over. The NHS, however, is mainly following through on existing plans and technologies which leverage existing infrastructure. In addition, relying on Microsoft technologies will allow the NHS to outsource a larger amount of work to centralized IT companies who are more comfortable in Microsoft technologies than the current hodgepodge of open source and Linux tools necessary to run a similar level of healthcare infrastructure.
The NHS’s plans are currently under the scrutiny of the National Audit Office, though, so whether the current direction is financially viable, so time will tell if the NHS’s commitment to Microsoft, and Microsoft’s claim of cost savings, will bear out. Ultimately, though, it may not matter. In healthcare it is often a miracle enough to actually reach an IT goal, never mind at the level of the project the NHS is undertaking.