Taking Charge of Your Health

What’s In Your Online Medical Record?

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Online patient portals give you access to your own health information and medical records, empowering you to take a more active role in your own health care.

Many physician practices and health systems have begun offering portals such as MyChart, which makes it easy for patients to:

Get test results faster: When you have lab work or diagnostic imaging done, portals allow you to securely check those test results. Often, you get them much faster (depending on the test, sometimes within the same day) than receiving them by mail or waiting for a phone call from your doctor’s office.

Stay on top of your appointments: Portals allow you to view upcoming appointment information and get reminders of any preparation you may need to do before an appointment, such as completing necessary paperwork or letting you know if you need to fast before an appointment or bring something with you, for example. They sometimes also allow to you request or schedule upcoming appointments. Finally, they may include an after-visit summary or any physician’s notes from the appointment to help you go back over any information you may have missed or were not clear about.

Manage medications: Often, you can see a list of your medications and find information about dosage and warnings, as well as request prescription renewals or refills.

Communicate with your provider: Many online systems allow you to securely message your doctor or provider with questions you may have, allowing you more clear communication and less time playing phone tag with his or her office.

Get health information: Many portals feature health libraries with resources and useful information on a wide range of health conditions.

Care for a loved one: If you are a caregiver to someone else, whether it’s your own child or an elderly relative who lives far away, you can request to receive proxy access to that person’s health information with the proper permission. This allows you to help them manage appointments and their healthcare needs more efficiently.

Why You Should Check Your Information Periodically

If your doctor’s office provides access to a patient portal, it is well worth checking out. In addition to saving you time and supporting care between office visits, patient portals allow you to check your medical information for accuracy and request corrections as needed.

“Staying on top of your medical information is important because even common clerical errors, including typos or transposed numbers, can negatively affect your health care,” says Jonathan Sykes, M.D., who is the chief medical information officer at Henry Ford Allegiance Health and works closely with physician leaders and the staff of Jackson Community Medical Record to promote effective use of electronic health records to improve patient care.

For example, an incorrect name, address, phone number or personal contact could make it difficult to reach someone in the event of an emergency or cause a bill to be sent to the wrong location. Or, if your allergies are not included or are listed inaccurately, it might result in a negative reaction to a prescribed medication. 

Dr. Sykes recommends checking all your information when you first become connected with a patient portal, then checking whenever new information is added. (You will typically receive an email message  when that happens).

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions if anything looks wrong or is confusing.

“Patient portals are interactive tools,” Dr. Sykes says. “The more engaged the patient, the more effective the tool.” He encourages anyone who has access to a patient portal to sign up, visit it frequently, explore its features and take the fullest advantage of its information and convenience.

“Even patients who are reluctant to try it at first often tell us later how much they like it,” says Dr. Sykes.

Ask your primary care provider if a patient portal is available to you. If so, your provider or an office staff member can help you register and sign in to your account online.

Learn more about what’s available on Henry Ford MyChart today.

You can also find a doctor on henryford.com, or by calling 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936) in southeast Michigan or 1-888-862-DOCS in the Jackson area or south central Michigan.

Jonathan Sykes, M.D., is the Chief Medical Information Officer for Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson.