Healthcare Portals: How to Decide if You Should Use One?

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Healthcare portals offer a secure and convenient way for you to access your personal health information and interact with healthcare providers. These applications can enhance your participation in your healthcare and help streamline processes such as bill pay, prescription refills, and scheduling. Healthcare portals also provide methods to share your healthcare information with loved ones.  Having access to your healthcare history online can even be beneficial when you need to have access to your healthcare history while being treated away from home. More and more healthcare providers are offering access to healthcare portals.  Like any online application there are benefits and issues to be aware of when using an online health portal.

Healthcare portals provide these advantages:

  • Convenient Access to Medical Information – Healthcare portals provide patients with the ability to access their medical records, test results, and immunization records from any location with internet access. This convenience also allows you to engage in your healthcare more fully and have better conversations with your doctor and other healthcare professionals.
  • Improved Communication – The portals facilitate better communication channels between patients and healthcare providers. Secure messaging systems within these portals allow for efficient and direct communication, potentially reducing the need for phone calls and in-person visits. Having the messaging system in the application provides increased security and protection of your healthcare information.
  • Streamlined Administrative Tasks – For healthcare providers, patient portals can automate and simplify administrative tasks such as appointment scheduling, prescription refills, and patient data management, leading to improved workflow efficiency. The system also allows you to schedule doctor visits through the healthcare provider’s calendar and to request appointments sooner due to specific issues.

Some of the issues to consider when looking to use a healthcare portal are:

  • Security Concerns – One of the primary concerns with patient portals is data security. As with any online platform, there is a risk of unauthorized access, which can lead to privacy breaches and misuse of sensitive health information. Using a unique username and password, two-factor authentication, and using your portal only on a home or protected network (using a Virtual Private Network application) can help lower the risk.
  • Technological Barriers – Not everyone is tech-savvy, and you or others in your family or community may find it challenging to navigate these portals. This can lead to underutilization of the services provided through the portal. Working with your healthcare provider, family members, and friends that are using the same portal can be beneficial for those just learning to use it. You can also search for support materials from the portal provider’s web site. 
  • Potential for Misinterpretation – Access to detailed medical records and test results without proper interpretation by a healthcare professional can sometimes lead to confusion and misinterpretation causing stress. Use the information to assist you in formulating questions to ask your healthcare professionals and avoid self-diagnosis.

Healthcare portals allow you to be a more informed and engaged patient. They offer numerous advantages that can enhance your healthcare experience and improve healthcare delivery. Nonetheless, it is crucial to think through the issues, particularly around security and accessibility, to ensure that these portals serve you and your healthcare provider effectively.

As we continue to navigate the complexities of healthcare technology, it is essential to maintain a balanced perspective on the tools we integrate into our healthcare systems. By doing so, we can harness the full potential of healthcare portals to benefit you and your healthcare providers.

Additional reading and information:

What to Know About Patient Portals (

How to Navigate Your Patient Portal and Avoid Mistakes (

Connect to care: The patient portal – Mayo Clinic Health System