Using Patient Portals
by Debra Wood, RN
A growing number of patients are turning to the Web to access healthcare information. In response to this demand, more and more physicians and hospitals are using patient portals as gateways for patients to find information.
Patients can also communicate with their physicians and access services using patient portals. Here is some information to help you understand how.
What Are Patient Portals?
A patient portal is a website you can use to securely interact with your electronic medical record at your doctor's office to perform some of the routine, health-related tasks that you would normally conduct at the office or by phone.
When Do You Use Patient Portals?
Most patient portals allow you to conduct the following tasks:
If you have a new medical problem that needs to be diagnosed, you can use the patient portal to make an appointment for an office visit. That way, your doctor can conduct a physical exam and ask additional questions.
If you choose to communicate with your doctor using a patient portal, you should keep your messages to your doctor clear and concise. Take the time to organize your thoughts. Remember that the message you send will become part of your medical record.
When Not to Use Patient Portals
You should never use a patient portal if you have a medical emergency and need a quick answer. Difficulty breathing, bleeding, or severe abdominal pain all require immediate, personal medical attention.
Well-educated, web-savvy people seem to be the most comfortable with patient portals. But, they are not the only ones. Communicating with a doctor's office online may solve transportation problems for older adults or people who cannot drive.
An increasing number of physicians and hospitals are using patient portals to communicate. If you'd like added healthcare convenience, then a practice that has a patient portal may be right for you.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
US Department of Health & Human Services
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
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What is a patient portal? Health IT website. Available at: https://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/faqs/what-patient-portal. Accessed June 29, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 6/29/2016
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