What Makes The Patient Portal Different From a PHR (Personal Health Records)?

What Makes The Patient Portal Different From a PHR (Personal Health Records)?

Patient portals and Personal Health Records (PHRs) play crucial roles in managing health information in the industry. However, they differ in features, functionality, and usage. While both aim to enhance patient engagement and provide access to health information, they have distinct functionalities and scopes.

PHRs often integrate data from multiple healthcare providers and offer features for goal tracking, data analysis, and selective sharing with healthcare professionals. Understanding these distinctions helps patients decide which tool best suits their needs for managing and engaging with their health information.

S-PRO explores what makes the patient portal different from a PHR, highlighting unique characteristics and effective ways to utilise each solution.

Features And Functionality Of Portals For Patients

A patient portal is a secure online platform provided by a healthcare organisation. With its help, patients access their medical information, communicate with healthcare providers and manage appointments or prescriptions. 

In contrast, a PHR is a comprehensive digital repository where individuals store, manage, and access their complete health information from various sources. These are medical records, test results, and personal health data.

Portals for patients are constantly evolving to provide a more user-friendly experience. They include the following features:

  • Secure online access to personal health information
  • Ability to view medical records, test results, and diagnoses
  • Appointment scheduling and prescription refill requests
  • Communication with healthcare providers through secure messaging
  • Access to educational resources and health management tools

The Essence of Personal Health Records (PHRs)

The primary purpose of a PHR is to give individuals online access to a complete and accurate summary of their medical history. 

Patients set up and maintain PHRs by themselves. They can include information from various sources instead of a single healthcare provider.

Exploring the use of PHRs empowers patients to manage their healthcare and improve health outcomes proactively.

Here are the most significant PHRs features:

  • Maintenance of accurate and up-to-date medical records
  • Health status monitoring
  • Track of medical history
  • Communication with healthcare providers

PHRs also proffer the convenience of managing medical appointments, prescriptions, and insurance information in one place. 

Additional PHRs’ features include:

  • Comprehensive storage of personal health information
  • Integration of data from various healthcare providers
  • Ability to input and update personal health information
  • Support for data sharing with healthcare providers and caregivers

What Makes The Patient Portal Different From a PHR?

While patient portals and PHRs aim to engage patients in their healthcare and increase efficiency, they have some fundamental differences.

With a portal, patients access their medical records. They communicate with healthcare providers, make appointments, and view test results. 

On the other hand, a PHR is a patient-initiated record. With its help, patients collect, maintain, and share medical information from different healthcare providers and wearables.

Let’s explore more details about the difference between patient portal and personal health record.

Criterion Patient portals  PHRs
  • Facilitate communication and interaction between patients and healthcare providers. 
  • Provide access to specific health information and services.
  • Centralise and manage comprehensive health records.
  • Serve as a personal health management tool.
Data Source
  • Aggregate data from multiple sources, including hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and wearable devices.
  • Offer a more holistic view of the patient's health.
Control and Ownership
  • Are managed and controlled by healthcare organisations.
  • Grant limited control to patients over their health information.
  • Are patient-controlled, allowing individuals to manage and update their own health records.
  • Rely on standardised protocols and interfaces to integrate with an organisation's EHR system.
  • Guarantee seamless information exchange within healthcare networks.
  • Face challenges in achieving interoperability due to varying data formats and systems.
  • Consolidate data from multiple sources.

Patient Portals vs. Personal Health Records

For a healthcare institution, the decision to promote using Patient Portals or Personal Health Records (PHRs) depends on several factors. They include the type of care the institution provides, the needs of its patients, and the ability to integrate these systems into specific workflows. Here are some considerations in this regard:

When to Use Patient Portals When to Use Personal Health Records (PHRs)
  • Integration with Electronic Health Records (EHRs): If the institution uses an EHR system that includes a patient portal, promoting it improves patient engagement. Also, it streamlines communication and meets particular healthcare regulations.
  • Healthcare Delivery Efficiency: Patient portals can reduce administrative workload. With their help, patients schedule appointments, request prescription refills, and pay bills online.
  • Improving Patient Engagement and Outcomes: Regular use of patient portals improves patient adherence to treatment plans, enhances patient-provider communication, and ultimately leads to better health outcomes.
  • Patient Population Needs: Suppose an institution's patient population includes many individuals with complex, chronic conditions or patients seeing multiple providers. Then, promoting the use of PHRs is highly beneficial. With PHRs, patients consolidate health information from multiple sources.
  • Patient Empowerment: Encouraging patients to use PHRs empowers them to control their health better. It leads to increased patient satisfaction, better adherence to treatment plans, and improved health outcomes.
  • Data Gathering and Research: Healthcare institutions may promote PHRs as a tool for gathering patient-generated health data for research purposes.

Future Trends and Integration

In the future, healthcare providers may provide access to a patient portal and a PHR, authorising better communication and ample healthcare management. 

The future trends include the following:

  • Integration of patient portals and PHRs for a unified patient experience
  • Enhanced interoperability standards facilitating seamless data exchange between systems
  • Integration with wearable devices and remote monitoring tools for real-time health data updates
  • The utilisation of artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze health data and provide personalised insights

This approach to patient portal software development and integration gives providers access to patients' medical records in a single place. As a result, it eliminates patients’ need to carry or transmit their records between several providers. 


Patient portals facilitate communication with healthcare providers, granting access to specific information and services. On the other hand, PHRs centralise comprehensive health records and empower individuals to manage their health information. That’s what makes the patient portal different from a PHR

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