Patient portals are secure online websites that give patients convenient access to personal health information (PHI) anywhere with an internet connection (HealthIT.gov 2021). Patient portals include information such as recent doctor visits, discharge summaries, information included in the electronic medical record (EMR), making payments, and more. There are many patients that benefit from patient portals and many that do not use them or have no access to reliable internet. Those people that lack reliable internet connections, such as rural or individuals experiencing poverty, Amish people, and the elderly. The population that does not use patient portals could affect the health care organization significantly. For example, those that do not have steady living conditions could get behind on bills that are mailed to old addresses. Payments would go unpaid, and the patient would not realize how much debt is accumulated if the patient portal is not used. HCOs must also ensure that their portals are diverse enough to reach certain populations, such as vulnerable ones. The patient portals should include features for the vulnerable populations such as having disability accessible versions (impaired vision, mobility challenges with using a computer) and different language features. Such concerns could raise legal, ethical, and even clinical concerns.
Patient portals can also enable communication between patients and providers. Promoting patient involvement in this type of delivery could improve the quality and safety of care (Dendere et al., 2019). For instance, when patient portals are used, patients can spot errors in the EMR such as incorrect insurance information, help minimize emergency room and in-person visits and complete necessary forms to shorten doctor visits and referrals.
Dendere, R., Slade, C., Burton-Jones, A., Sullivan, C., Staib, A., & Janda, M. (2019). Patient portals facilitating engagement with inpatient electronic medical records: A systematic review. Journal of medical Internet research, 21(4), e12779. https://doi.org/10.2196/12779
HealthIT.gov. (2021). What is a patient portal? https://www.healthit.gov/faq/what-patient-portal