As the health-care world finally shifts from analog to digital, increasing numbers of patients have access to a patient portal–a site that allows them to schedule appointments, email their physicians, refill medications, and check the results of laboratory studies. As part of a national movement known as OpenNotes, nearly five million Americans can also read their doctors’ notes about their care on their patient portals.
While many people worried that such access would create overwhelmed, confused or depressed patients (and doctors!), the early evidence is reassuring. Patients enjoy seeing this information, it aids them in self-management, and they periodically catch errors in their record. And doctors’ fears–that OpenNotes would become a time sink or a source of perpetual conflict with patients–have not materialized.
These portals will become even more sophisticated and user-friendly, particularly as consumer-oriented tech companies enter this market. Check that… re-enter the market. In 2007-2008, I helped advise Google in its effort to build a patient portal. The product, Google Health, required patients to go through tiresome, unwieldy electronic processes to exchange data between hospitals, pharmacies and doctor’s offices. In 2012, Google Health was allowed to die a quiet death.