6 Reasons Seniors Should Use Patient Portals

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In a perfect world, what would managing your health look like? Perhaps you would make a doctor's appointment without being put on hold, or refill a prescription in just one click. Or, you could talk to your doctor directly, without having to go through their receptionist or medical assistant first.

The world certainly isn't perfect but managing your health can be this easy.

Many doctor's offices today have an online patient portal — a secure website that gives you convenient, 24-hour access to your personal health information, and allows you to connect with doctors and nurses, request refills on your prescriptions, and even view your lab and test results.

If you have access to an online patient portal, here are six key ways it can help you easily manage your health:

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You can check your medical history

When you sign up for online patient portal access, your recent doctor visits, discharge summaries, immunizations, lab results, and other personal health information are stored there. If you're seeing a new doctor, or need to revisit instructions from a previous visit with your doctor, you can easily access everything by logging in.

You can connect with your doctor directly

From your online patient portal, you can send your doctor a direct message. The messages go to a dedicated inbox where the doctor or their nurses can access your message and respond with next steps. Most doctor's offices claim a 24-to-48-hour response time for non-urgent messages, but you can rest assured their response will come directly back to you.

You can schedule an appointment

Most online patient portals allow you to request the day and time you'd like to be seen. Once your doctor's office receives your request, they'll either send you an email confirming your appointment or give you a call.

You can view your medications and refill prescriptions

Requesting refills typically means having to leave a message with your doctor's office or waiting on hold for someone to accept the request. Every online patient portal is set up a bit differently, but most have all of your medications listed in one spot so you can easily request refills.

You can make payments

Rather than sending a check in the mail to pay for your medical bills, you can log in to your online patient portal to make an electronic payment. Paying through your portal can make it easier to track your medical bills and the payments you make. Plus, you won't have to worry about your payment getting lost in the mail.

You can keep your information updated

If you move, change insurance, switch phone numbers, or have other changes to your personal information, it's important to let your doctors' offices know. You can do this easily with your online patient portal. Once you input and save your new information, the office will have it.

Keep in mind that all online patient portals are different. Talk to your doctor or the office staff to learn about the specific features of theirs.

Rachel Quetti is a health care writer at Aetna with experience in senior wellness, Medicare, commercial health care, and consumer engagement. When Rachel isn't trying out new fitness classes, she is cooking up fun, (mostly) healthy recipes in the kitchen. Rachel lives in Watertown, Massachusetts and has a degree in journalism from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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