Last week, the New York Times ran a piece on doctors’ use-or non-use-of electronic recordkeeping. The article focused on contradictory observations: electronic recordkeeping can reduce errors and improve patient care (and deliver a host of other benefits), yet a surprisingly high number of doctors’ offices aren’t making the transition. Their concerns: the cost of switching over and the retraining involved. Hurdles that exist across every industry and decade when faced with new technologies. My own physician in Los Gatos made the jump about a year ago. He and his colleagues still haven’t completely embraced their laptops and now and then I hear grumbles. But they are starting to see the advantages. And as those of us in IT know, no pain, no gain. Yes, there’s typically a high price to get in the game, but once you’re in, the cost and productivity benefits realized by integrating disparate systems and automating functions are well worth the entry fee. What’s interesting about doctors’ offices is the untapped potential that could really transform the entire healthcare community. This is not just about saving the business time and dollars-valuable benefits, to be sure. This is about a rippling effect-expanding circles that go beyond the practice to impact patients, insurers, hospitals and other critical players in the healthcare system. As more parties are able to operate from the same page, the whole system runs more smoothly. Plus, it opens the door for easier health-trend spotting-anonymous aggregated data based on geography, for instance, could potentially reveal environmental concerns.On a more personal level, I, myself, am thrilled to be able to have a prescription sent electronically to my pharmacy so there’s no delay due to lost faxes. Not to mention skipping the need to wait in line for my daughters’ immunizations records. Everything transferred efficiently and confidentially. And what can make this even more powerful is a linkage with cloud-based services. For example, some weeks ago, Google began hosting health records. With this service, you can pull your medical information from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies; and you can update your doctors, as well, to ensure that those invested in your health have the whole picture, if you seek treatment or prescriptions from others. Although this raises privacy and security concerns for some, is it any different than hosted email or on-line banking? Or your paper records at the doctor’s office, stored behind a single lock and key? What is happening in healthcare is indicative of trends across many industry segments-hospitality, real estate, construction-you name it. It’s a gradual realization that the network can connect us in myriad ways and have a transformative impact-on businesses, as well as individuals.Over the past decades we’ve witnessed the explosive growth of the Internet within the Fortune 500s, into the home, and to the cell phone. We’re now poised on the edge of the next great expansion, through a combination of connectivity and hosted services. And, it will become key to the operation of even the smaller businesses you pass when walking down the main street of any town.