The UK National Health Service: The Search for a Silver Bullet

June 13, 2022

Modern health care is a bit of muddle. The UK’s National Health Service has licensed, tested, tire kicked, and tried every angle to manage its myriad activities.

According to the odd orange newspaper (the Financial Times), the often befuddled NHS may be ready to embrace the PowerPoint assertions of a US company. “Palantir Gears Up to Expand Its Reach into UK’s NHS” reports:

Over the next few months, Palantir will bid for the five-year £360mn contract for the proposed Federated Data Platform (FDP), a new data tool to connect and integrate patient and other data sources from across the health system, so real-time decisions can be made effectively by clinicians and bureaucrats.

How similar is delivering health care to analyzing information to win a battle or figure out what an adversary is likely to do?

I am not sure. I do know that many intelware companies (this is my term for firms providing specialized software and services to law enforcement, crime analysts, and intelligence professionals) find that commercial clients can become squeamish under these conditions:

  1. Question from potential customer: “Who are your customers?” Intelware vendor: “Sorry, that information is classified.”
  2. Question from potential customer: “Can you provide a specific example of how your system delivered fungible results?” Intelware vendor: “We are not permitted to disclose either the use or effect of our system.”
  3. Question from potential customer: “How much consulting and engineering are needed before we can provide access to the system?” Intelware vendor: “That depends.” Customer asks a follow up question: “Can you be more specific?” Intelware vendors: “That information is classified.”

You can see how the commercial outfits not engaged in fighting crimes against children, drug smuggling, terrorist actions, termination of adversaries, etc. can be a tough sell.

But one of the big issues is the question, “Is our data available to government entities in our country or elsewhere without our knowledge or permission?”

Every licensee wants to here assurances that data are private, encrypted, protected by 20 somethings in Slough, or whatever is required to close the deal.

But there is the suspicion that when a company does quite a bit of work for certain government agencies in one or more countries, stuff happens. Data mining, insider actions, or loss of data control  due to bad actors behavior.

It will be interesting to see if this deal closes and how it plays out. Based on NHS’s track record with Google-type outfits and Smartlogic-type innovators, I have a hunch that the outcome will be a case study of modern business processes.

Palantir needs many big wins to regain some stock market momentum. At least the Financial Times did not reference Palantir’s estimate of a 30 percent chance of nuclear war. Undoubtedly such a terrible event would stretch NHS’s capabilities regardless of technology vendor underpinning the outfit.

Stephen E Arnold, June 13, 2022


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