WASHINGTON U.S. consumer groups, insurers and privacy advocates together with Google Inc and Microsoft Corp said on Wednesday they have agreed to standards intended to speed adoption of personal electronic health records.
The electronic medical record field remains in its infancy. While U.S. privacy laws govern actions by medical providers like doctors, there is little in the way of other established privacy, security and data usage standards despite decades of industry effort.
Backers, which also include some doctors and employer groups, said they hope to break a stalemate in moving medical records online, sparked by consumer fears that their personal information will be abused, or held against them.
"A policy and privacy logjam ... has constricted some of the consumer uptake of these services," said James Dempsey, deputy director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy rights group.
Principles for personal health records include an audit trail to track use of the data, a dispute resolution process for consumers who believe their personal information has been misused and a ban on using data to discriminate in employment.
Also signing on to the principles are WebMD; Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports; AARP, the seniors' lobbying group, and America's Health Insurance Plans, which represents major insurers such as Aetna Inc.
Experts lament the fragmented nature of the health care system, where most doctors still use paper records, and most patients do not have access to their own personal health information.
Microsoft earlier this month announced that Kaiser Permanente, the biggest U.S. health maintenance organization, will use the Microsoft's HealthVault platform to link Kaiser employees who volunteer to have their records transferred.
Google sells Google Health, a U.S. health data service that combines the leading Web company's search services with a user's personal health records online.
(Reporting by Kim Dixon; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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