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Verizon To Put Medical Records In The Cloud

Verizon has announced a new service that will make medical records available in the cloud. Called the Verizon Health Information Exchange, the service aims to make it easier for hospitals, doctors' offices and other health care centers to access and share medical records. Verizon says it can store patient records in a standardized format in its data centers, and physicians can access them via the Web. Subscribing health care providers can also share patient records with each other through the service.

The use of electronic medical records (EMR) is on the rise, according to a survey conducted by Knowledge Networks and the Physicians Consulting Network. The survey, which collected responses from almost 11,000 primary care physicians and specialists, shows that 52 percent of specialists and 50 percent of primary care doctors are using EMRs. That's up 10 and 12 percent respectively compared to 2008. But while hospitals and doctors' offices are adopting EMRs, these records are often kept in incompatible formats. By creating a cloud-based service that multiple providers and systems can access, Verizon hopes to sidestep the format problem.

"We think this problem is best solved at a national level from the cloud," says Gerard Grundler, Managing Principal of Health Information Exchange Services at Verizon Connected Healthcare Solutions. Grundler says health care providers can upload their electronic records to the cloud, where the Verizon service will normalize them. When physicians need to access a record, they can use a Web browser, whether on a PC or mobile device such as an iPhone. The company says there are no hardware or software costs. The service is priced according to the number of patient records, but Grundler would not provide any more specifics.

The Verizon exchange is built on top of Oracle's Healthcare Transaction Base, an information exchange platform that aggregates and normalizes data from disparate sources. The cloud portal where physicians access records supports a variety of authentication mechanisms, from user names and passwords to token-based authentication, biometrics, X.509 certificates and other methods. Subscribers choose their own level of authentication.

The service can also let providers keep their records on premises rather than stored in Verizon's data centers, and instead function as an access layer so that subscribers at one office or hospital can still see patient records at another site. "They can use a federated approach, where data stays in the EMR system and is only pulled at the time of request," says Grundler. He says Verizon has interfaces for more than two dozen EMR systems. However, hospitals and doctors' offices may also require Verizon's professional services division to help integrate with the cloud service. The questions for Verizon is whether hospitals and physicians will trust a cloud-based service--and whether their patients will consent to have medical records stored online.