Patient portals are online applications that allow patients to access, interact and communicate with their healthcare providers. The features provided by patient portals enable patients to interact with their medical information via electronic means. Patients using a portal would be more informed and could take ownership of their medical records, therefore enhancing the patient-doctor relationship and ensuring accuracy of their health record, as well.
So where is the future of patient portals headed?
To answer this question, it is important to understand several key points that a patient portal must deliver today to meet tomorrow‘s demands:
- User interface and experience is critical. Portals that deliver the best user experience will see higher utilization rates, better patient engagement and improved patient outcomes.
- User access to data and the ability to add, modify or delete appropriately.
- Data richness, or the amount of data that is useful and relevant data to patients.
- The utility of patient portals will be shaped by their functionality and the context in which they are used. This utility can be captured in many different ways and by different stakeholders at various stages in the healthcare delivery process.
In many ways, patient portals are the gateway to telemedicine. They are the bridge in which the Personal Health Record (PHR) can grow, be shared, applied and ultimately provide results. We currently see and will continue to see innovation and the proliferation of medical devices where most will be miniature and mobile or otherwise unobtrusive and will begin to contribute or write to our medical records. These devices will provide more utility in the personalized health data as patients will and will help increase patient portal usage. They will also begin to get real-time data instead of the static measures that get taken at the doctor’s office or at the patient’s bedside. These devices would be able to attach or to write to personalized health records – all done through the patient portal.
PHRs will continue to grow and expand at a faster rate. As the PHR becomes more accessible to patients and patients start to capture data and find new ways to apply it, they will become more empowered. In addition, PHRs will be more widely shared (privacy concerns notwithstanding). They will get exchanged faster and more productively within the healthcare system and beyond.
The fitness and personal training markets will also gain deeper insights and greater relevance as they assume more data-driven approaches. Social media will similarly have its role in this data-enriched environment, connecting people to valuable resources, keeping them on track with their respective health agenda and efforts to get in-shape and focus on staying well. Personal health will be less a medical monopoly as a wider network gets applied. Algorithms and artificial intelligence will have a role in screening populations, alerting people at risk and preventing potential health crises.
The patient portal is a catalyst for much of this becoming a future reality. It is an organizing principle for both the collection of data and the dissemination of information services as well as behavioral modification. Currently, patient portals are conduits of medical information. As the data-enriched user experience is enhanced, however, the role of the patient portal will expand across the zenith of the healthcare horizon.