Ryan just received the opportunity of a lifetime: A last-second spot opened up in a prestigious, foreign work placement program he’s had his eyes on for over five years. The program starts in a week, but one requirement is that participants are up-to-date with their immunizations. Ryan can’t remember if he’s received all his immunizations, or if he’ll be able to acquire a copy of his medical records or schedule an appointment with a doctor before the trip starts. For someone like Ryan who needs immediate access to his health history, patient portals can be immensely helpful tools.
Patient portals are crucial because they enable healthcare providers to interact with patients and engage them in the treatment process quickly. Using tools available on portals, patients can take a proactive approach to their health and stay on top of treatments and procedures. Portals allow patients to decrease latency time—the time it takes a healthcare professional to react to a change in the patients’ health status and provide a new medication or required treatment. They can also decrease processing times between scheduling an appointment, or the days it takes for the former medical provider to send records to a current one.
Research at Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Information Systems and Technology focuses on increasing the effectiveness of healthcare information technologies, including patient portals. An example: A patient named Peter is being treated for type 2 diabetes. The prescribed medicine helps keep Peter balanced, allowing him to go about day-to-day life. But Peter’s ailment requires his blood to be tested every two weeks—difficult to organize with his busy schedule. Not only does Peter’s portal send him regular alerts for these blood tests, but he can also use the portal to see the results—and if there are any red indicators showing him going off balance.
Afterward, Peter can visit his doctor to change medications to rebalance, or determine an alternate treatment. Since Peter is organized and thoughtful with his treatment and health, the portal decreases latency time because he has immediate access to his results and doesn’t have to wait a week for a call from the doctor. The portal allows Peter to manage his healthcare in an easier, more effective manner, and take an active role in his healthcare management.
Portals can also help patients interact with doctors, review educational/instructional materials, update their personal health history and treatments, and become more involved and engaged in the process. Effective use of patient portals can allow medical providers to respond and react to a patient’s needs more quickly, and in turn, reduce latency time when treating patients.