What’s a Patient Portal?
A portal just as is suggested by the Latin derivative, is basically a gateway or access into some space or situation.
Enter, the 21st Century! with yet another new technology: A Patient Portal. Alas! Patients can now enter and see aspects of their own health records and communicate with their doctors online! Technology and the sometimes friction laden-ride with the practice of medicine may have found a perfect fit. Medicine today as an art form has many antecedents from the past, from Hippocrates through the Renaissance and the post WWII era that still shape many aspects of patient care, health care delivery and research. These past influences while valid did not anticipate the sprawling codes of zeros and ones and mega mass of bits and bytes in supercomputers that drive our world daily today. Troubling ethical and potential legal issues loom over different forms of electronic communication with patients, and their protected health information safety beyond the scope of this post.
Dr. Edmund Pellegrino, captured the paradox when he correctly stated, “being ill is a special state of human existence. It moves the patient into a position of dependence, vulnerability and exploitability. We hold medical knowledge in trust, it is not proprietary, for all of us (as providers of health care) have entered a covenant, and the sick have a claim on that knowledge”.
The availability and rising popularity of patient portals is very much in keeping with the position taken by the renowned physician and bioethicist quoted above. We all at some point in time have to access healthcare services for different concerns and we have a claim on the knowledge vested in those who provide medical services to us. As Dr. Wymyslo explains in the attached video link: http://bcove.me/dgcma7cq Patient portals have their own potential pitfalls too despite the strengths and advantages. Electronic health records have a certain permanency about them and a huge amount of discretion and due caveats rest with the patients when asking certain questions through the portal. Once these responses are posted on the portal they become permanent portions of the health record with diverse implications for all concerned.
Our efforts to launch a patient portal at our practice have found traction this year and will go live in July 2013. We have huge expectations as the community we’ve been privileged to serve over the past year has shown to be very receptive to patient engagement, family centered care and empowerment and we anticipate this service will complement their overall health care needs.