Several big companies are teaming up to try to get patient information online.

The employers are backing the Omnimedix Institute, Portland, Ore., a nonprofit consortium that is developing Dossia, a Web-based patient health record system.

The 5 founding employers include Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark.

The founding employers will be offering access to the Dossia PHR system to 2.5 million employees, retirees and dependents, Omnimedix says.

Omnimedix is basing the system on the Common Framework, a new set of technical standards and policy guidelines for exchanging patient health information.

Connecting for Health, an arm of the Markle Foundation, New York, has been establishing the Common Framework to encourage use of electronic patient health record systems.

Members of the Connecting for Health steering committee include Dr. Allan Korn, senior vice president for clinical affairs at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Chicago, and Margaret O’Kane, president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance, Washington, along with many executives from government agencies, technology companies and companies that provide health care. The Connecting for Health steering committee does not appear to include any executives who work directly for health insurers.

Omnimedix will start by offering Dossia to the U.S. employees, dependents and retirees of the 5 founding corporations in mid-2007, but the consortium hopes to open the system to other users, the consortium says.

When the system is complete, individuals who choose to use the system will be able to enter data manually or use the system to get certain types of individual health data through the Internet, Omnimedix says.

The individual patients will decide what information to share and with whom, and the fact that an independent organization is running the system will help keep employers and health insurers from making unauthorized use of the system, Omnimedix says.