Electronic Patient Education Portals

Introduction

The establishment of electronic patient portals became possible with the development of the Internet and online websites that provided information directly to the user. Patient portals today can be defined as secure websites or web pages that provide users with necessary information related to their treatment and/or condition anytime. Patients register on portals and use their login and password to view relevant information that can include medications, lab results, discharge summaries, etc.

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The purpose of patient portals is to educate patients about a specific issue, provide information, and allow them to contact their physician quickly in case of urgent questions. Some of the patient portals can also send their users electronic health records that allow patients to be more informed about their clinical history and become an informed, independent partner rather than a passive partaker and subject of treatment.

Despite the fact that patient portals are not used by every medical facility yet, they improve care by increasing patient awareness of specific diseases, the medicine used to treat them, and necessary lifestyle interventions. Furthermore, they also allow patients to schedule appointments with their doctors, consult nursing professionals or physicians about treatment-related questions and receive renewed prescriptions.

Patient portals also facilitate nursing care and make it more efficient by allowing nurses to access patients’ medication lists or immunization records, lab data, and summaries of previous appointments. Portals save nursing professionals’ time as well since they can answer questions instantly and avoid misunderstandings common for phone communication, especially if a patient is unable to speak clearly due to their condition.

Topic Examples

A good example of a quality patient portal is the one used by Pinnacle Health. It provides an intuitive web design to help the patient register quickly. It also includes features standard for patient portals such as upcoming appointments, test results, schedules of medical appointments, etc. (MyPinnacleHealth, 2017). Moreover, it also sends users health reminders and notifications; such a feature is not available for the majority of patient portals.

One of the biggest advantages of this patient portal is the free wellness library, available for patients without a profile. The human map feature helps patients access information about various conditions, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, asthma, etc. Each of the sections related to a condition contains from 10 to 50 frequently asked questions or articles related to it that increase patient awareness of the disease.

Furthermore, the portal also provides guidelines, quizzes, and blog entries about various healthcare and lifestyle-related questions, such as yoga for elderly patients, nutrition for infants, air pollution, medicinal herbs, etc. (MyPinnacleHealth, 2017). Thus, even those patients who do not have a profile on the website can find the information useful for self-management of their condition or prescribed lifestyle intervention.

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The portal also addresses such themes as the risk of over-the-counter medicines and medicinal herbs, a topic that some patients might be unaware of or neglect. Thus, the portal helps prevent unwanted side effects by informing patients that research on such medicine is insufficient, and its inclusion in the treatment should be discussed with their provider. Patient portals can increase medication adherence of patients, disease awareness, and improved management of chronic illnesses (Kruse, Bolton, & Freriks, 2015). The “Healthier You” blog provides guidelines for patients about safety during exercises, risks and benefits related to consumption of specific products (e.g., caffeine), and routine interventions that can improve one’s heart health.

Personal Experience

I have used patient portals both for myself and for my family members who were less tech-savvy than I was to schedule appointments, ask questions about medications, and contact medical professionals about urgent condition-related issues. I prefer using patient portals because responses are usually quicker and more detailed compared to phone consultations.

Appointment schedules are also easier to navigate via patient portals because several times, my appointments via phone calls were scheduled inappropriately due to misunderstood numbers and dates. I used information from patient portals about arthritis to explain my relative with rheumatoid arthritis that exercise could be helpful for him in certain cases, which he did not believe up to that point, despite similar recommendations that his physician gave him.

The positive aspect of this experience is the quick and detailed answer I get every time I connect with my doctor or nursing professional using a patient portal. All treatment-related discussions are provided to me later in the form of a summary that indicates the major points (e.g., changes in medication use or suggested interventions) of the consultation. This way, it is unlikely that I might forget to implement some lifestyle interventions prescribed by my physician, as I did earlier when no patient portals were used.

The negative aspect of patient portals is their difficulty for elderly or not very tech-savvy patients. Despite the intuitive design and provided instructions, the majority of my elderly relatives do not know how to use patient portals because they need email confirmation, which is a difficult task for senior individuals. I believe that some hospitals can teach elderly patients how to use those portals and then provide them with login details so that they can use the website independently.

Conclusion

Patient portals are web-based sites or pages that help patients communicate with their doctors, collect information related to treatment, and schedule appointments. The purpose of such portals is to facilitate patient-physician communication and improve care effectiveness. Patient portals can increase the effectiveness of self-management of chronic diseases, patient-provider communication, and disease awareness (Kruse, Argueta, Lopez, & Nair, 2015).

Patient portals significantly facilitate nursing care, helping nursing professionals increase patient awareness of necessary lifestyle interventions and improve their adherence to prescribed medications. Nurses also gain access to patients’ immunization and medication history, which can improve the efficiency of further interventions.

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References

Kruse, C. S., Argueta, D. A., Lopez, L., & Nair, A. (2015). Patient and provider attitudes toward the use of patient portals for the management of chronic disease: A systematic review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 17(2), 40-44.

Kruse, C. S., Bolton, K., & Freriks, G. (2015). The effect of patient portals on quality outcomes and its implications to meaningful use: A systematic review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 17(2), 44-51.

MyPinnacleHealth. (2017). Patient portal. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, March 22). Electronic Patient Education Portals. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/electronic-patient-education-portals/

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Electronic Patient Education Portals." March 22, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/electronic-patient-education-portals/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Electronic Patient Education Portals'. 22 March.

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