Patient portals represent a huge leap forward in improving your ability to access your personal medical information and communicate with your doctors and nurses. Without an online portal, it can be frustrating to get basic information from your doctor’s office or hospital. If you need information or have a question outside of your scheduled appointment, it can take hours, if not days, for a response. Patient portals have become more common but are certainly not universal. You should certainly consider this a factor when choosing healthcare providers.
What Is a Patient Portal?
Think of a patient portal as your always-on, easy-to-use command center for accessing your medical information and communications. What you have access to varies depending on your doctor or hospital, but there are some things that almost all portals enable you to access.
When you access the online portal, you typically have the opportunity to check on test results, verify appointments, and view portions of your medical records. You can also find answers to some common questions and email your doctor directly for specific information and guidance. Patient portals finally let you manage your healthcare on your schedule, from the privacy and comfort of your home or office.
Is My Information Safe?
This is one of the most asked questions about patient portals. Medical information is very personal and the thought of it being available to others is scary. That is not a problem with patient portals.
When you first access a patient portal, you will be asked to choose a username and password. Some even ask for identifying questions only you would be able to answer in case you forget your password. As long as you protect your password, others will not be able to access your personal information.
What Information Can I Find?
Every doctor and hospital system provides different types of information within their patient portal. Before selecting a provider, you may want to review online information or ask office staff so you can compare available options. At a minimum, you should look for a portal that allows you to:
- See an overview of your records, such as dates and reasons of visits
- Review your prescribed medications and what they are for
- Request refills on your prescriptions
- Schedule, verify or change appointments
- Correspond with your doctors and nurses
- Check lab and other test results
- Update contact information
- Check on your insurance coverage
- Make payments
Some portals also offer general information regarding insurance, medical conditions and other health topics that can help make your everyday life easier.
Benefits of Using a Patient Portal
Patient portals make it much easier for you and your doctor to communicate. Using a portal puts more control into your hands by eliminating the need to go through a switchboard, then a nurse and finally to your doctor by telephone. Having all your information in one place also allows your doctor to provide care in a timelier manner.
More benefits include:
- Improved cooperation between your primary doctor and any specialists. Shared information prevents test duplication, ensures different medications don’t adversely interact, and eliminates delays in communicating test results.
- Faster and easier prescription refills. Your portal should contain the exact name and dosage of each medication, provide a simple method for requesting a refill, and automatically contact your chosen pharmacy.
- A complete record of all procedures, immunizations and illnesses. If you’re a parent, this can be especially helpful when it’s time to fill out school and athletic forms.
- Instant access to your medical record from anywhere. If you become ill while traveling, all your information is available without you having to remember all the details at a time when you are stressed.
- Comprehensive information for family members who need to care for an elderly parent. Shared access means you can maintain a complete picture of medical interactions, make sure quality care is being provided, ensure appointments are being scheduled and attended.
- Seamless transitions between care providers. When relocating or changing doctors, your information is readily available to be passed on, avoiding any gaps in treatment for ongoing illnesses and providing ready records for new schools and employment.
- Immediate access to test results. Instead of calling or waiting for test results to be sent from lab to office to doctor to you, you will be able to get results as soon as they are ready.
When Can’t I Use a Patient Portal?
Patient portals are meant to enhance the experience and connection you have with your medical providers. It is not meant to replace them completely. There are times when you need to see a doctor in person.
Regular checkups are still important, as are follow-ups when you have been hospitalized or ill. In an emergency situation, it is still necessary for you to either contact your doctor directly or contact emergency personnel.
Bringing It All Together
Taking advantage of an online patient portal gives you far more control in managing your healthcare. It makes maintaining and organizing your medical information effortless, and releases you from the restrictions of office hours and phone calls. Plus you have the added peace of mind of knowing that, no matter where in the world you are, you can carry all of your medical information with you.
If you’d like to learn more about the Newburyport Medical Associate patient portal, or you are currently a patient and do not yet have your login information, please call us at 978-462-9571.
To login to our patient portal, click here.