The National Poll on Health Aging has found that more older adults are signing into and using online health portals, even if there are some who still worry about privacy or feel uncomfortable with communicating with a doctor or nurse over the internet.
Slightly over half of the poll’s respondents have already set up their patient portal account, with women being somewhat more likely to use an online health portal than men.
How are health portals being used?
Eighty-four percent of those polled stated that they use their patient portal to view test results, while 43% are using it to refill prescriptions. In addition, 37% utilize the service to book appointments with their physician.
The online service can give patients easier and sometimes quicker access to their lab results, medical information, prescriptions, and appointment scheduling. This convenient service results in less time waiting on the phone or until the next in-person doctor’s visit. The majority of those polled found portals to be as fast or faster than making a telephone call to their doctor’s office. As for miscommunications, 73% of those surveyed discovered that the portal was the same or better than speaking to their doctor when it came to the quality of information that they received.
There are, however, some older adults who are still not comfortable with the patient portal service. They worry about miscommunications and errors occurring, they may not know how to access or use the portal, or they may be skeptical about sharing personal medical information over the internet. There is also the potential for unnecessary anxiety caused by receiving test results that cannot be easily comprehended and require a physician to explain what they mean. Adopting new technology takes some time to get accustomed to, but if used properly, it can be one more tool to gain access to medical advice, information, and services.
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