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Chances are your doctor has stopped taking notes with pen and paper and moved to computer records. That is supposed to help coordinate your care.

Increasingly, researchers are also exploring these computerized records for medical studies – and gleaning facts that help individual patients get better care.

Computerized medical records are hardly new. Pioneers at one of the nation’s first HMO’s, Kaiser Permanente, were using electronic medical records as far back as the 1970s, and saw them as a big part of the future of medicine.

“The part of it that they didn’t envision that we’re envisioning now, is how proactive a role patients would be taking,” says Dr. Tracy Lieu, who heads Kaiser’s research division in Oakland, Calif.

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