Patient portals saving time, users report

Portal user Betsy Pavitte with cake

By National Health Board

A growing number of people are using patient portals to book doctor’s appointments, find lab results or send emails to GPs.

Patient portals are a secure, online way to help you to manage and keep track of your health 24/7.

They are increasingly being offered by general practices around New Zealand and are a bit like online banking for your health.

Depending on what your GP has included, you can use a patient portal to book appointments, access your medical history, and check your medical records and lab results.

You can even request prescription repeats or send a quick email to your GP.

Betsy, who lives on Auckland’s North Shore, (right) says she has found the portal a real timesaver.

“I have blood glucose tests and I can get the results on the computer, rather than having to phone up and wait for a nurse to give them to me.

“It also makes booking appointments really easy. You can book one on the computer, using the calendar, and if there’s any problem with the time the nurse rings you straight away.”

“I was a bit nervous about using the portal at first but I went and sat with the practice manager, who set me up and showed me how the password worked, and then I was away.”

Useful tool

When general practices began offering patient portals, there was an expectation young ‘digital natives’ would be first in line but the reality has been quite different.

Research early this year found people aged 65 years and over were very supportive of portals, with 75 percent saying they would be likely to use one.

A number of seniors made comments which included, “Easier access to important and useful information,” while another patient said the portal was useful because it provided “a record of results and what was recommended in case I forget.”

Others commented “Very useful while traveling. Easy to make appointments or order scripts,” while another said they liked the portal because of “not having to phone busy practice personnel.”

There was also the organisational aspect, “I consider that we have to be our own health managers, and this could be a useful management tool.”

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Portals in NZ map

There are now more than 330 general practices with patient portals and 136,000 patients registered to use them.

The Ministry of Health has now introduced an on-line map showing which general practices offer patient portals

If your GP is among them, ask about registering and they will set you up with a secure username and password. Your information will remain totally confidential.

If your practice doesn’t yet offer a portal, you can send them a message through the online map saying you’d like one – or talk to them about it at your next appointment.

Editor's note: The views of contributors are not necessarily those of the Office for Seniors.