Americans demand online access to medical records

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Experts have called for uniform standards to protect personal health information regardless of where it is stored..

Consumer options for online health management are expanding, leading to a need for better information to demonstrate how these complex technologies contribute to better health, according to not-for-profit health foundation Kaiser Permanente.

A recent survey by the organisation found that 65 per cent of US consumers have gone online to learn about a medical condition.

Some 38 per cent have used their insurance company's online tools to learn more about their care, up from 29 per cent in 2007.

However, the research also revealed that Americans continue to have concerns about privacy, and require assurances from all parties that the information is held securely.

Some 47 per cent of respondents had a preference for doctors who use electronic health records, and 61 per cent had a preference for insurance companies that use the technology.

Just over half agreed that health IT should be a top priority for the next US president to ensure that all Americans have access to their own personal medical records electronically.

"Data is a cornerstone tool for transforming care delivery, and a critical driver in reforming our nation's health care system," said George Halvorson, chairman and chief executive of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals.

"Doctors should have access to information about all of their patients all of the time. And patients should be able to take a more active role in tracking and managing their own health information online.

"But if we do not empower both patients and doctors to use these tools, their great benefits may not be fully realised."

KP HealthConnect claims to be the world's largest civilian electronic medical database with 8.7 million Kaiser Permanente members.

All of Kaiser Permanente's 13,000-plus physicians now have electronic access to their patients' medical records in every one of the organisation's 421 medical offices and clinics, and 34 of its hospitals.

A new strategic relationship between Kaiser Permanente and Microsoft gives consumers another level of access to their health information.

Patients are able to integrate personal electronic health data from multiple sources into one secure repository using Microsoft's new HealthVault platform.

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