While Yale Health patients have been able to schedule appointments online since the beginning of 2014, this semester, Yale Health plans to make a renewed push to convince students to use the service.

MyChart is a part of Yale Health’s year-old Electronic Medical Record system, Epic, which facilitates information sharing between physicians and hospitals, as well as allowing more departments to move away from paper records. Through MyChart, patients can see their medical records and lab results, book appointments and securely message their clinicians, all online. While MyChart has been functional since Jan. 27 2014, in two months, Yale Health plans to send a campus wide email, which will include a link that allows students to easily activate their MyChart accounts, to encourage more people to use it.

“[MyChart] offers an electronic solution to an electronically savvy population,” said Chief of Student Health and Athletic Medicine at Yale Health Andrew Gotlin, explaining that the ability to navigate health services online would be particularly convenient for college students.

According to Yale Health Medical Director Michael Rigsby MED ’88, only 30 percent of Yale Health patients have activated their MyChart accounts. While every student has an account created for them automatically, only those who have activatived their accounts can use them. Activation is simple — users follow an online link and enter a user name and password when prompted.

Of the 30 percent of those who have activated accounts, only 40 percent are students, meaning that only 20 percent of Yale’s student population uses MyChart. According to Rigsby, the age range that typically takes advantage of MyChart “defies assumptions.”

“I get an awful amount of patients in their 60s and 70s that use MyChart,” said Rigsby.

Rigsby said that the low usage of MyChart among Yale students is disappointing, given the striking advantages it offers. Having greater access to individual health information empowers patients to make decisions for themselves, he said.

Joel Bervell ’17, who had never heard of MyChart and could not find out anything about it online when he researched it, agreed. Many students view an appointment as a time-consuming inconvenience, and thus end up simply Googling their symptoms online, he explained. Being able to securely message clinicians instead of searching online will help students better understand what is going on when they are sick, so that they know when they need medical attention, he added.

Rigsby also said that being able to see one’s own medical records is a good way for patients to catch mistakes in record keeping.

“There aren’t tons of mistakes, but we do hear for patients who say, ‘Hey that doesn’t look right,’” Rigsby said, adding that he had had one patient note that she had received an additional vaccine that was not listed in her record, as she had received it after her vaccination record was submitted.

Gotlin said that MyChart’s direct scheduling capabilities make it particularly useful. Direct scheduling, which is yet to be piloted, allows students to book appointments, view immunization and lab records and print these documents without asking permission from physicians.

Currently, the majority of communication between students and healthcare staff is over the phone, Gotlin said. Since students spend their days in and out of classes, it is difficult for clinicians to call students back at a time convenient for the student, he added.

According to Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin, MyChart is particularly helpful for students with chronic conditions.

One student, who suffers from a chronic health condition known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome — a condition in which the nervous system has trouble sending messages to other body systems, particularly the cardiovascular system — agreed. Because not all communication between patients and health care providers is recorded, she said, it is easy for confusion to arise.

The student needed her vitals checked every week by a nurse at Yale Health, but the nurse would change the day or time of the appointment without updating it officially. The student would then get voicemails informing her of incorrect appointment times.

“I would hear two different sets of information about when my appointment is,” she said, adding that although she can only speak of her experience with one nurse, she felt that miscommunication is prevalent at Yale Health because communication is not always recorded.

According to Rigsby, the messaging component of MyChart can help rectify those miscommunications. Having a written trail of clinical discussions is helpful because it is easier to follow up on things, and those conversations can become part of medical records, he added, noting that everything is updated in real time.

Rigsby emphasized that urgent medical problems should not be communicated to physicians through MyChart.

“As convenient as MyChart messaging is, it is not instant messenger,” he said, explaining that MyChart is not able to provide urgent medical advice because answers are typically received in two to three days.

While Genecin and his team are looking forward to sending a campus wide email to students , they are also considering other methods to increase student participation. Gotlin said that Yale Health is looking into having clinicians activate students’ accounts for them when they come in to see their doctor or nurse, in order to make things easier for them.