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Online medical records offer convenience

A variety of companies — from private health-care providers and insurance companies to big technology firms such as Microsoft and Google — are developing and launching sites, most of them free, that allow patients to keep personal health records. They can include everything from medical histories to test results, doctors’ notes and prescriptions.

Patients can input their records themselves or have them added by the few doctors’ offices and other medical facilities that keep compatible electronic records online.

Because the field is so new, standards and legislation still are under development. And privacy advocates worry about sensitive records falling into the wrong hands.

But nearly everyone applauds the idea behind the records: They aim to bring the notoriously slow-to-computerize health records out of the era of manila folders and scribbled notes and into the future of electronic information that can be transported with the click of a button.

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