Patient Portals Make Medical Information more Accessible

Technology > IT

Photo By Jake RustenhovenGot via Flickr

Information technology has long been a part of just about every industry, and this includes health care. It is even becoming more digital with patient portals that let patients easily access their medical information through websites. Test results, prescriptions, and other medical data are more readily available, and communicating with doctors is made more convenient. Some portals even allow patients to schedule appointments, fill out forms, and pay bills.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information, 2014 saw 64 percent of hospitals with some type of online patient portal. In 2016, 58 percent of health care providers were providing portals, reports another survey.

With more healthcare providers offering these services, medical information has become more accessible to patients at a lower cost to these providers. Like every new technology, however, these patient portals come with pros and cons. In an article for The Week, writer Lana Bandoim lists some of these.

The most obvious advantage of patient portals is how much easier it is to access medical records online. Patients could look up information at any time or place using their phone, tablet or computer connected to the Internet. There is no more need to call the doctor's office during clinic hours.

Easier access to medical data also makes patients more involved with their health care. Tools such as reminders and notifications keep them up-to-date with their appointments and checkups.

Patient portals also help health care providers save both time and costs. Health care workers could focus on other tasks now that portals can take their place in things like booking appointments and answering patients' queries.

On the other hand, Bandoim points out that it is not always that easy to get patients to actually use patient portals. Some prefer to do things the old-fashioned way or aren't comfortable having their medical information accessible online. Since the technology isn't that widespread yet, others aren't even aware of it or forget to use it.

Another concern for patients is the security of their personal data. Hacking is a real risk, as a study from Experian shows that health care is a top target for hackers.

Privacy is also a concern of many patients who are worried that other people or agencies might be able to access their information.

In order for patient portals to become more successful, many questions may still need to be addressed to put patients' minds at ease. Developers must look into these concerns to be able to encourage patients to use these modern-day tools.