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  • Nancy Combs

Medical Records Held in Patient Portal Can Be Accessed and Viewed Online

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

I knew something was amiss the moment I opened the invitation to a smoking cessation class. What? I’d never smoked a day in my life!

Because I am most familiar with the electronic health record at my “home” health system, I decided to go online to do a little detective work on the records kept at another facility where I’d gotten a COVID test that morning. Sure enough, that facility had pegged me as a smoker.

It was an easy mistake to make – a typo likely by a beleaguered medical assistant during those long Omicron days. She remains a healthcare hero to me but hers was a typo that took nearly two months to fix.

Amidst it all, I realized anew the importance of knowing how to access your electronic health record, or EHR, anywhere you go for health care. While firewall-protected, your personal health information is “out there.” Any inaccuracies can affect your quality of care the next time you seek services at that facility.

Checking for errors isn’t the only reason to access your EHR. Your online portal is a gateway to do this and more:

  • Communicate with your doctor and other providers

  • Make an appointment for an in-person or a video visit

  • Refill prescriptions

  • Review or modify your health history

  • Research valuable health information

Gateway to Telehealth

I sought out experts at two major health systems for basic information about their EHR portals. Ascension Southeast Michigan uses the Cerner platform, known as Patient Portal, and Henry Ford Health uses Epic, which consumers log onto as MyChart.

“Today, getting care doesn’t just mean making an appointment and driving to the doctor’s office. Many health needs can be handled at home through telehealth,” said Veena Panthangi, M.D., of Family Medicine and Geriatric Medicine at Ascension Southeast Michigan.

“With an online appointment, a patient can visit with their doctor personally and discretely from the comfort of their home, office or wherever they are. Patients can talk with a doctor about the same things they would discuss in person including new symptoms, questions and concerns, as well as follow up for a chronic condition such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, annual checkups, specialty care, pediatric care and more,” Dr. Panthangi said.

To register for your own online portal:

  • Go to the home page of your health system, where you will find a button to guide you, usually near the top right of the screen.

  • If you prefer to talk with someone by phone, each health system has a dedicated number, also listed on their website.

If you are still unsure how to take the first step, here’s where a family member or a friend could help, said Courtney Stevens, Henry Ford Heath’s director of virtual care. You can even designate a trusted person for “proxy access,” communicating on your behalf via the patient portal.

“People don’t need to feel alone,” Stevens said. A portal could help break down traditional barriers to care, like transportation. “Video visits can be scheduled as an alternate mode of care, you can have the notes from a past appointment at your fingertips, so you no longer need to keep paper,” she added. “And it’s easy to ask your doctor or care team a question through the portal. MyChart puts a plethora of resources at your fingertips.”

In underserved communities, navigating an online health record can be further challenged by lack of online access altogether – “the digital divide,” Stevens observed. That’s why health systems are starting to partner in their communities on initiatives to increase broadband availability and digital health literacy. For example, Henry Ford Health is working with the Southeast Michigan Community Collaborative for Improving Older Adult Healthcare in the Virtual Environment, she said. Further, the City of Detroit has opened an office for Digital Inclusion and Equity.

In the meantime, what do you do if, like me, you discover an error in your online health record?

Begin with the provider at the facility where the error occurred, said Ascension’s Panthangi. Or, contact the EHR helpline or dedicated email listed on the health system’s website.

Lastly, as the adage goes, “There’s an app for that.” You don’t need a computer to use the many functions of your online health portal. Almost everything can be done from your smartphone, so check out the app store – or get the help of a grandchild – and start connecting!


Digital Technology in the Temple: Uplifting Knowledge, Faith and Healing

Henry Ford Health employees help churchgoers at Second Ebenezer sign up for MyChart. Photo Courtesy Henry Ford Health

Henry Ford Health has a new program to increase health knowledge and access to online services by helping faith community members sign up for MyChart. Both Second Ebenezer and Perfecting Churches in Detroit have participated in “Digital Technology in the Temple: Uplifting Knowledge, Faith and Healing.”

“Lack of MyChart usage prohibits patients from taking advantage of a full array of care coordination and services,” said Wilma Ruffin, M.Ed. of the Henry Ford Health Innovation Institute. “The faith-based community is a strong linkage that has always nurtured and provided social support....

Many churches have already stepped up to the plate and have formed health ministries to assist and educate congregants.”

In addition to MyChart registration for Henry Ford Health patients and for non-patients, and COVID vaccines, the program also provides health screenings.

“I didn’t know I could download MyChart on my phone, so even though I don’t have a computer I still have access,” said one participant. “I love being able to see my test results, and notice of my appointments and medications.”

For information on conducting this training at your faith community, email

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