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As much as electronic medical records (EMR’s) have been the topic of conversation in the healthcare profession over the last 10 years, most of the buzz has been around the “potential” rather than “impact” of the technology. 

One of the main reasons for this is that there exists a lack of standards that allow for the transfer of information between EMR systems.  There are some great EMR systems out there, but for EMR’s to really catch on, they need to be both cost effective and efficient for providers.  For all users of EMR’s to achieve this, one of two things needs to happen: (1) Everyone needs to get on board with the same system, or (2) we agree to, and abide by development “standards” that will allow systems to communicate with each other.  Since getting all providers on board with one EMR platform is unrealistic, the answer to widespread adoption likely lies with the development of standards that will allow systems to integrate together, and that will lower the switching costs associated with moving from one system to the next.

With regard to personal health records (PHR’s), the same is true, and the battle between Microsoft and Google to become the preferred PHR system by consumers and providers has recently brought the issue of “standards” to the forefront.  This article from discusses how Microsoft, Google, and some other PHR developers have agreed to move forward with privacy standards in the development of electronic personal health records – an important step toward widespread adoption by healthcare consumers.

In a move designed to prompt more people to store their medical records online, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and several others have agreed on privacy standards to protect patients’ information. The list includes WebMD (NSDQ: WBMD), MedicAlert, AARP,Consumer Reports publisher Consumers Union, BlueCross BlueShield, and other insurers.