The Future Of Patient Health Portal Apps

Eva Stoddart
3 min readApr 7, 2021


Let’s face it: patient health portals are a nightmare to use. Too many people are familiar with digging through a non-responsive and poorly designed website to try to find their blood test results or vaccination records. A health portal providing patients with secure online access to their medical data is a great idea in theory, but the execution has been pretty abysmal.

It’s no secret that healthcare has trailed behind other industries when it comes to technological innovation — but that’s finally changing. In May 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized rules around patient data access and interoperability. Providers and payers are now required to create APIs, meaning that third parties can create platforms for consumers to easily access their health data. These rules went into effect on April 5, 2021.

When this change happened for finance, it opened the door for highly accessible fintech platforms, with apps such as Venmo and Robinhood taking center stage. Very soon, the same thing will be happening for healthcare. Apps will be able to take your clinic’s health records and make them easily available to you on your smartphone. Through intuitive design and functionality, apps are expected to boost patient engagement, empowering people to better track their own health.

Will health portal apps make a difference to healthcare outcomes?

It’s likely that they will. There is a large body of research related to current patient health portal use and satisfaction. The consensus is that when patients use health portals, they tend to have better health knowledge, decision making, self-efficacy, and medication adherence.

The downside is that researchers also discovered that user-friendliness is the most negatively perceived feature of patient health portals. Portals are often difficult to navigate and contain information that’s hard to understand. This is a particular barrier for the less tech-savvy older generation — a demographic that have some of the biggest healthcare requirements.

Apps could be a great alternative to these unpleasant platforms. They generally offer more intuitive and consumer-friendly features than existing patient health portals. These features include easy log-in access, real-time tracking, simplified display of data, and intuitive functionality.

Patient health portals have existed for a while, and do have benefits when it comes to health outcomes. The problem is that most people aren’t seeing these benefits, as they’re resistant to using the portals. If apps can make patient health portals easier to use, it’s likely to boost adoption rates. In turn, this will positively impact people’s engagement with their health and their overall outcomes.

Apps as the future of healthcare portals

Companies from tech giants to start-ups are getting excited for the impact of this legislation change. Apple has its Health Records app, and Microsoft and Amazon both have new platforms and products on the horizon.

There are many smaller companies working on exciting things in this field. Some of these companies are focused on the benefits to developers. Particle was formed in 2018 with the goal of breaking down health silos. In February 2021, they launched their FHIR API, which gives developers unprecedented access to medical data from over 70,000 health systems, practices and clinics.

Commure is another company which aims to blend coding with the medical profession. The idea is for doctors and engineers to easily collaborate, making it simpler to quickly and efficiently create healthcare platforms. The focus is on minimizing the potential administrative complexity involved in creating health apps. These efforts will benefit developers, medical professionals, and patients.

And what about the consumer? Many start-ups are launching user-friendly and innovative apps to help patients to easily view their records. For instance, Hixny has existed since 1999, with the mission of enabling better care and lower costs for healthcare consumers. This legislation change has allowed them to develop Hixny for individuals. Their platform centralizes test results, X-rays and other health data, simplifying communication between patients and their healthcare providers.

The rule changes have recently gone into effect and these are exciting times for many medical technology companies, big and small. User-friendly apps are expected to increase adoption of patient health portals, which is likely to go hand in hand with improved health outcomes for patients all over the world.