Patient Portals

Digital patient portals allow patients to directly and securely message their providers, request medication refills, and make payments for past care with ease.

But when should you reach out to your provider through these virtual features? And when should you call the doctor’s office directly for more care?

A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Medical Informatics found that many patients feel uncertain about when to contact their provider using online portals. Common concerns included imposing on their physician’s time and not knowing when to use the messaging feature.

Patient portals are electronic health records that let patients access their health information 24/7. They also can contact providers with questions and concerns about their health or a recommended treatment plan.

For example: If your doctor asks you to check your daily blood pressure and you need guidance on the best time of day to do so, you could send them a message through your patient portal. Be specific in your message to your provider and include attachments where it makes sense.

Your provider will receive a notification of your message when you send it. But patients should always call their doctor’s office outright with more urgent questions.Here are some quick tips for using patient portals to communicate with your provider.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

When to Use Patient Portals for Messaging

  • If you have a non-urgent follow-up question about a recent appointment or ongoing care.
  • If you have a general health question that doesn’t need immediate attention, such as preventive measures.
  • To request a prescription refill.

When You Should Call Your Doctor

  • If you have new or worsening symptoms that may call for a doctor’s visit.
  • If you have an urgent health question that doesn’t need emergency care.
  • If you have follow-up questions about recent tests or lab results.
  • If you need immediate advice on a prescription or treatment plan.
  • If you have questions about obtaining medical records.

Other Benefits of Patient Portals

  • Viewing current medications and allergies.
  • Making payments, viewing statements, and checking activity.
  • Receiving health reminders and notifications from your provider.
  • Scheduling non-urgent video or in-clinic appointments with a provider.
  • Confirming the date and time of an upcoming appointment.

When Not to Use Patient Portals

Do not use patient portals or an office phone number if you’re experiencing a medical emergency. Call 911 or visit the nearest hospital emergency room if you have:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Severe bleeding.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Chest pain.
  • A severe allergic reaction.
  • Serious wounds or burns.
  • Stroke symptoms.
  • Broken bone.

For more information on UPMC’s patient portals, visit our website.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.