rcm glossary

Patient portal

Patient portal is an online platform that allows patients to securely access their medical records, schedule appointments, communicate with healthcare providers, and manage their healthcare information.

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What is a Patient Portal?

A patient portal is a secure online platform that allows patients to access their personal health information, communicate with healthcare providers, and manage various aspects of their healthcare. It serves as a centralized hub where patients can conveniently access their medical records, schedule appointments, request prescription refills, view test results, and even pay their medical bills. Patient portals are typically offered by healthcare organizations, such as hospitals, clinics, and medical practices, as a part of their healthcare information technology (IT) infrastructure.

Patient portals have gained significant popularity in recent years due to the increasing adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) and the growing demand for patient engagement in healthcare. These portals provide patients with a convenient and secure way to actively participate in their own care, empowering them to make informed decisions and take control of their health.

Key Features of a Patient Portal

Patient portals offer a wide range of features and functionalities that enhance the patient experience and improve healthcare outcomes. Some of the key features commonly found in patient portals include:

1. Access to Medical Records: Patients can securely view and download their medical records, including lab results, radiology reports, medication lists, immunization records, and visit summaries. This allows patients to stay informed about their health status and share their medical information with other healthcare providers as needed.

2. Appointment Scheduling: Patients can request and schedule appointments with their healthcare providers directly through the patient portal. This feature eliminates the need for phone calls and streamlines the appointment booking process, making it more convenient for both patients and healthcare providers.

3. Secure Messaging: Patient portals enable secure messaging between patients and healthcare providers. Patients can ask non-urgent medical questions, seek clarification about their treatment plans, or request prescription refills. Healthcare providers can respond to these messages at their convenience, enhancing communication and reducing unnecessary office visits.

4. Prescription Refills: Patients can request prescription refills through the patient portal, eliminating the need for phone calls or visits to the pharmacy. This feature ensures that patients have access to their medications in a timely manner, improving medication adherence and overall health outcomes.

5. Bill Payment: Patient portals often provide a secure platform for patients to view and pay their medical bills online. This feature simplifies the billing process, reduces administrative costs, and improves revenue cycle management for healthcare organizations.

6. Health Education and Resources: Many patient portals offer educational materials, resources, and links to reputable health websites. Patients can access information about their medical conditions, preventive care guidelines, and lifestyle modifications to support their overall health and well-being.

Difference between Patient Portal and Electronic Health Record (EHR)

While the terms "patient portal" and "electronic health record" (EHR) are closely related, they refer to different aspects of healthcare IT. An EHR is a digital version of a patient's paper medical chart, containing comprehensive and up-to-date information about the patient's health history, diagnoses, medications, allergies, and treatment plans. On the other hand, a patient portal is a web-based platform that allows patients to access and interact with their EHR.

In simpler terms, an EHR is the electronic repository of a patient's health information, while a patient portal is the interface through which patients can access and manage that information. The EHR is primarily used by healthcare providers to document and manage patient care, while the patient portal is designed to empower patients and facilitate their engagement in their own healthcare.

Examples of Patient Portals

1. MyChart:

MyChart is a widely used patient portal offered by Epic Systems Corporation, a leading provider of EHR systems. It is used by numerous healthcare organizations, including hospitals, clinics, and medical practices, to provide patients with access to their medical records, appointment scheduling, secure messaging, and other features.

2. FollowMyHealth:

FollowMyHealth is a patient portal developed by Allscripts, another prominent EHR vendor. It offers similar features to MyChart, allowing patients to view their medical records, communicate with healthcare providers, and manage their healthcare online.3. Athenahealth Patient Portal: Athenahealth, a well-known healthcare technology company, offers a patient portal as part of its suite of services. The portal enables patients to access their medical records, schedule appointments, request prescription refills, and pay their bills.

These are just a couple examples of patient portals available in the market. Many healthcare organizations also develop custom patient portals tailored to their specific needs and requirements.


Patient portals have revolutionized the way patients engage with their healthcare providers and manage their own health. By providing convenient access to medical records, appointment scheduling, secure messaging, prescription refills, and bill payment, patient portals empower patients to actively participate in their care and improve healthcare outcomes. As the healthcare industry continues to embrace technology, patient portals are expected to become even more sophisticated, offering additional features and functionalities to enhance the patient experience.

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