Dr Jeff Lowe is a firm believer in patients having more control over the management of their own health. And he believes patient portals are the way of the future.
A GP at Karori Medical Centre in Wellington, he says it’s all about equipping people with more knowledge to look after themselves.
“But that doesn’t mean you should necessarily visit your doctor less frequently, it means you should have access to your own medical records as well as easy access to trustworthy health information so you can take control of your own healthcare”.
Such trustworthy health information can be found on self-care websites like Health Navigator, of which Dr Lowe is a big fan.
He’s a staunch advocate of patient portals, too, which are becoming increasingly popular at general practices around the country.
He says you should ask your GP about patient portals if you haven’t been told about them already.
A patient portal is a convenient, secure online website where you can view your health record anytime and interact with your general practice.
To use a patient portal, you simply log in (like logging in to online banking) and a range of different tools are available to manage and keep a record of your health results and goals.
Through patient portals, you should be able to:
- view your medical records
- book appointments
- view lab/test results
- send/receive messages from your doctor or nurse
- update your personal details
- order repeat prescriptions
- view your vaccination history.
As of March this year, over 100,000 New Zealanders were using patient portals, according to the Ministry of Health.
“Patient portals allow patients to access their health information and contribute to it and become part of their own health care,” Dr Lowe says.
He says he often sends links to pages on Health Navigator to patients via patient portals. “Patient portals have extended the confines of the 15-minute consultation,” he says.
“Most patients have around four 15-minute appointments with their doctor over the course of a year. In between they have a lot of hours to look after themselves. We want to make that time as productive as possible.”
He is quick to emphasise that patient portals are as secure as internet banking, so there only minimal concern about security breaches.
Patient portals give you more control over your own healthcare and, despite what many doctors fear, actually reduce the time health professionals spend on administrative tasks.
“For example, ordering repeat prescriptions and booking appointments online saves time. We have less telephone traffic and it’s a leaner, more-efficient process.”