The Growth of the Online Patient Portal

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Medicine is evolving. Technology is working its way into almost every aspect of our lives and medicine is no different. The steady growth of internet users has brought innovation to many areas within medicine, one being the ‘online patient portal.’ The conception of the patient portal subsequently led to a significant rise in popularity in the early 90’s. Today, the patient portal is more popular than ever, and it’s not hard to see why.

A recent survey suggested that when patients were asked if the doctor’s website was important after the doctor had been selected, results showed that almost 60% of patients considered access to an online portal to be somewhere between important and very important. This survey aptly describes the sentiment that is now commonplace among those seeking health care. There are so many qualified doctors for patients to choose from, that the decision making factor often comes down to the ease of healthcare access from which the patient will benefit. The online patient portal is becoming the quintessential tool in doctor-patient relations and communication by allowing for easy access to medical records, increased efficiency of information flow, and are often modular, facilitating movement between providers.

Medical records can be a bit unorthodox. With a slew of documents appearing every time you visit the doctor, it can be difficult to maintain order and keep your most important documents in check. The portal enables you to keep your documents electronically, giving you the ability to file papers and access important information without the need to sort through physical papers.

Removing physical documents from the equation increases efficiency in both directions. While you gain access to all your important information around the clock (portals can be open 24/7, unlike your doctor’s office), your provider also has all your most important information, at their disposal. Furthermore, that information is going to be more recent, and as such, more accurate, equipping your provider with tools to better diagnose and administer health care.

Should you ever switch providers, the online portal can also catalyze the movement between the two practices/providers. Although this doesn’t happen often for the average patient, the move can be frustrating; dealing with transferring your personal information and medical history requires a bit of legwork. Using a portal has potential to make this switch easier, especially when your portal includes an EMR.

Online patient portals are certainly destined to be a staple of modern medicine. The evidence is abundant: they make healthcare easier and faster, and people seek patient portals when deciding which doctor to see. With technological innovation showing no signs of slowing, its safe to say that these interfaces will only become more prevalent and instrumental in healthcare in the future.

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