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Your Files at Your Fingertips 

Patient Portals must (carefully) carry all of us into the digital age of accessing health records  

Client partners of the Ottawa Health Team - Équipe Santé Ottawa have shared their insights into how a near-future patient portal system could provide them with their health care information. As the “ultimate user” of any system, getting patient and caregiver involvement and perspectives early in the process is crucial.  

Patient portals give patients safe and secure online access to their personal health information and the ability to manage aspects of their own health care. They also can help patients and clinical teams interact in a more meaningful way to create better patient outcomes. 

For example, patient portals can allow for a patient to check prescription refills, dosage, etc., any time of day. Consent forms, testing results and educational materials can be shared immediately between doctor and patient. And with their records readily available to them, patients can ensure all their information is correct and complete, helping reduce errors. 

Tim Hutchinson is a member of the OHT - ÉSO Client Partner Table (CPT) and is connected to several patient portals through different health care providers.  

“Clients have unique needs based on life experience, age, education etc.,” says Hutchinson.  “A portal system, if it is truly going to be used and helpful, needs to be built according to the intended audience preference and comfort level.” 

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Tim Hutchinson, Member, OHT - ÉSO Client Partner Table 

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Consistent, equitable access to a client’s own health care data is the end goal of recent surveys and discussions across the region. 13 OHTs in the area have been talking to their local primary care communities to figure out where they are and where they need to be to make that happen. 

Hutchinson says two questions are foremost, “WHAT is this portal going to do for me and WHY would I want to use it?”  

He and his fellow members on the CPT are providing important guidance, including:

Consider the "emotion" of the client.

Are they searching the portal out of fear because of a diagnosis? Are they anxious, depressed, confused?  

Is the navigation "intuitive" and logical to how the client thinks or tackles a problem, or has it been designed from a service provider's perspective? It may be logical to a professional but totally different from the way the client thinks or may be confusing. 

"Clients need to see the benefits, advantages, and usefulness of the portal and how this provides immediate, meaningful rewards to them."

- Tim Hutchinson 

 Significant consideration must be given to - access to devices/internet, assistance in strengthening health literacy levels, and including the option to share test results with your family physician/specialist. 

With the collaboration of OHTs in Eastern Ontario, work continues to ensure a patient-centred system that will make health care more accessible and efficient. 

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