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Patient Portals in Africa : Key to Successful Patient Engagement

  • February 2015
  • 59 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2722340


Table of Contents

Key Findings

•The evolution of consumer-directed healthcare has increased the access to medical information through the Internet in which the Health Information Technology (IT) plays a significant role. Patient portals allow patients to engage with their doctors, payers, and other healthcare providers over a click and also motivates them to take a proactive role in their health.
•Patient portals can create growth by transforming relationships between patients, physicians, and payers while improving efficiency and lowering the cost of delivering health care over the long term.
•Government prioritisation of eHealth and support to implement eHealth will eventually impact the growth of patient portal adoption.
•The providers of health care have no choice but to leverage IT tools that consolidate health information about diagnosis, medication, and medical care from different providers in the past to improve clinical outcomes through enhanced decision making.
•Most of the providers in the African continent have been developing in-house applications which focus only on the administrative and billing applications, usually off platforms such as Microsoft’s Dot Net technology, SharePoint and other web-based content management solutions. Few still use legacy systems.
•Collaboration among stakeholders can lead to the deployment of patient portals across a huge patient base.
•The providers/payers in Africa do not see an urgent need for implementing patient portals. However, they understand the value proposition and will most likely implement it in future considering the advantages of patient engagement.
•The strong penetration of mobile technology in Africa has been a backbone to the development of mHealth and telemedicine, which tend to hinder the adoption of web-based portals.
•There is a minimal existence of integrated clinical information systems, which is one of the major silos of information required in the back-end to implement patient portals.
•Patient portals can provide immense benefits for the treatment and management of chronic illnesses.
•For best results, providers should look into both web-based portals and mobile technologies to interact with their patients in real time and meet their needs.
•mHealth has seen early adoptions rather than the web-based portals in South Africa. There has been a predominant uptake and usage of applications based on the iOS platform by the healthcare provider community.
•Currently, patients are more likely to get their medical records printed from an electronic health record (EHR) rather than accessing it through the Internet due to inadequate awareness of eHealth.
•Patient portals are projected to be used as extensively as online banking is used today.


•Patient Health Record (PHR): is a tool that is primarily used by patients for documentation of their medical records, mostly controlled by the patient themselves or a family member.
•Electronic Health Record (EHR): is a digitalised version of a patient’s paper-based medical record. These real-time, patient-specific records can contain both clinical and billing data, are operated by the healthcare facility, and can be accessed by users with secure log-ins. EHRs can be interconnected between different hospitals, physicians, and government organisations.
•Patient Portal: is a web-based access point with secure log-ins that allows doctors, payers, and patients to communicate and share health information remotely, supplementing the on-going management of the patient's care and billing information. This is mostly available as a module contained within the EHR system. It also allows the patients to download their health information, is available for use 24*7 and offers convenience for all stakeholders and an increased level of control for patients in particular.

Overview of African Health System

•Healthcare in Africa is generally fragmented across the continent. Services are delivered separately by different providers and are roughly segmented into public and private sectors. x % of the total healthcare expenditure in Africa is constituted by the private sector and the remaining x % by the public sector.
•The world’s per capita healthcare expenditure is around 10 times higher than the per capita healthcare expenditure of Africa.
•Urban areas are witnessing a significant growth of private healthcare providers.
•The evolution of consumer-directed healthcare has led to the increased accessing of medical information through the Internet. Patient portals allow patients to engage with their doctors and payers over a click and also encourage them to take a more proactive role in their own health.
•The adoption of patient portals by the healthcare providers has not completely set in; consumers lack the motivation needed to take a more proactive role in their health.

Market Background

•A patient portal basically has the look and feel of a typical website, but is designed to serve as a gateway to the provider (hospital or medical practice) or the payer (insurance) that serves to interactively engage patients using a secure, regulatory compliant, two-way communication channel.
•Patient portals are equipped with features and functions designed to increase patient involvement in their clinical care as well as help them deal with related administrative issues. On the clinical side, patient portals encourage viewing test results and health documentation and can facilitate an on-going patient-provider dialogue. In terms of administrative issues, patient portals make it easier for patients to pay bills, schedule appointments, fill out forms, and perform other administrative activities.
•Patient portals can be divided into two types, depending on the technology. Some are stand-alone (or untethered) websites that sell their services and may or may not be integrated into the existing website of a healthcare provider. Most others, as commonly seen in today’s market, are included as modules added onto an existing EHR, in which case they are tethered to that specific EHR.
•Cultural changes and convergence in business are driven by the role of technology and the rise of social media, which will cause major disruptions in healthcare. This will alter the way in which people consume healthcare services and, in turn, drive the need for multi-featured patient portals.

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