Patient portals – a guide for patients

Key points about patient portals

  • Patient portals are secure websites provided by GPs, where you can access your health information and interact with your general practice.
  • Using a secure online patient portal service, you can manage and keep track of both your own and your family/whānau’s health.
  • It can be compared to online banking, but for health.
  • Patient portals are increasingly being offered by general practices around Aotearoa New Zealand.
Person working on laptop

(Healthify NZ, 2021)

Patient portals can allow you to:

  • send and receive secure messages to your GP or a practice nurse
  • see notes from your last GP appointment
  • see your test results
  • see a list of your health conditions
  • book appointments
  • ask for repeat prescriptions
  • see your vaccination history
  • receive reminders from the practice team.

Not all GP practices offer all the services listed above. Doctors can choose which services to offer when they introduce a patient portal. Some doctors will show your complete medical record, some will show a summary of your health information and some won’t offer this service.

Find out from your GP practice what services they offer through their patient portal.

Not all general practices across New Zealand have patient portals. The Ministry of Health has set up an online map(external link) showing which GPs have portals.

There are a number of patient portal products in New Zealand. Your GP will tell you which patient portal is available at their practice.

To sign up for a patient portal:

  • Talk to your GP to see if their practice is offering the service.
  • If it is, they will then get you set up with a secure username and password. 
  • Once you have supplied your email address to your practice, you will be sent an email inviting you to register for a patient portal and choose a password.
  • After signing up, you’ll have access to a range of different tools that you can use to manage your health.
  • Depending on what your GP has included, you could do anything from checking medical records to getting prescription repeats.
  • As your patient portal is an extension of your GP’s current services, you can trust that it is secure.
  • Your information will remain totally confidential and your portal is protected by your own unique password.
  • When you’re finished using your portal, simply log out of your account.

Patient portals are voluntary, and even if you sign up for one you can opt out at any time.

You can use your patient portal on devices such as laptops, personal computers, tablets or smartphones. If you have an email address and access to the internet, you can see your portal anywhere at any time.

Your general practice already has systems in place to make sure your information is kept private and confidential. If your GP decides to introduce a patient portal, the practice’s security systems will be reviewed to ensure your health information remains secure. An audit trail will show who has accessed the patient portal, to make sure your health information has been seen only by staff who are allowed to see it. You should protect your patient password as carefully as you would protect an electronic banking password.

If you want to share access to your online health information with a caregiver or family/whānau member, talk to your GP. They will be able to grant another person access by using a separate login and password. You can withdraw permission at any time.

Patient portals can enable parents to access the health information for their younger children. As children get older, there reaches a point where privacy becomes important. By the age of 16, access to a child’s record is unlikely to be granted or maintained unless there is clear reason (such as a 16-year-old with intellectual impairment) or with clear authorisation from the young person.

Using a patient portal is not suitable in an emergency when you need immediate medical advice. In this situation, call 111. 

A patient portal does not replace face-to-face communication with your GP or practice nurse. While it allows you to view your health record, lab results and request repeat prescriptions, it does not replace the need to attend your regular GP visits and speak with your doctor or nurse if you have any concerns about your health.

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Credits: Healthify Editorial Team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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