This resource is for adult patients and their care partners to learn more about shared access (also called proxy access) to online patient portals. Learn how to share access to your medical records with someone you trust. And learn how patient/family advisors can advocate for increasing shared access at their health system.

Most healthcare systems and doctor offices now use an online patient portal to allow patients to view their medical records online. Most portals include the ability to view visit notes, test results, and medications. Patients can use them to schedule appointments, pay bills, request prescription renewals, and send messages to their clinicians. Many of these portals include a function that allows for shared access, often called proxy access.

Shared access is when you grant a trusted friend or family member access to your patient portal account. This allows them to create their own login to view your medical information. You may choose to share access when someone else is helping you coordinate or manage your care or would need to access your medical information in case of an emergency.

The people you choose to share access with can, most often, view your medical information, schedule appointments, pay bills, request prescriptions renewals, and send messages to your care team.

Logging in as the patient may seem convenient, but it creates confusion for care teams and threatens patient privacy. Medical staff feel more secure exchanging messages and providing information with care partners who have been given shared access by their patient. By using shared access, your doctor knows both who they are communicating with and that the person they are communicating with is someone you trust.

Shared access makes it easier for people to help you with your care, while making it clear to your care team who is a trusted care partner.

Here are some reasons you might need to share access with someone:

  • You want another person to have access to your medical information in case of an emergency situation.
  • You need to keep someone who does not live nearby informed about your medical care.
  • You want someone else to be able to view your visit notes and help you ask the right questions in a follow-up or future visit.
  • You want your designated care partner to be able to send messages to your clinicians as needed.
  • You would like help coordinating your care, such as reminding you of appointments or follow-ups, or managing your medication

Here are some reasons why sharing access is better than sharing log-in information:

  • You can better keep your personal medical information protected by keeping your log-in and password to yourself.
  • It’s easier for your care partner to log in with their credentials if your portal requires an access code.
  • Shared access might make it easier to keep some of your health information private. For example, some portals let you to control if you want to share medical information or just the administrative information (bills, appointments, etc), or if you want to allow your care partner to see all of your messages.
  • It helps simplify password management for your care partner, if they may see clinicians in the same healthcare system or if there are multiple people granting them access to their patient portals.

There should be instructions about how to share access to your records on your patient portal. Most patient portals allow for shared access. You may have to ask your doctor’s office if you can’t find information on the organization’s website or in the patient portal.

Below are some of the challenges people can encounter when trying to share access and some of the routes you may need to take in order to share access.


  • Difficulty finding information. Even with an online process, locating information about granting shared access on the organization’s website or in the patient portal isn’t always easy.
  • Confusing terms. While the most common names for this type of access are “proxy access” or “shared access,” there are other names as well.
  • Difficult steps. Some health systems don’t have an online process and require granting access to be done in person. Also, if the patient and the care partner aren’t in the same health system, sharing access can become complicated.
  • Limited awareness. While it is very common for parents/guardians to have shared access to children’s patient portals, it is much less common for an adult care partner to know that they can have shared access to another adult’s portal. Among healthcare staff, even in the IT departments, there can be a lack of knowledge or misunderstandings about this type of access.

Possible Routes to Access (these are not all available at all health systems):

  • Complete the process in person (either on paper or electronically). While in the clinic, and with the assistance of clinic staff, the patient fills out paperwork or electronic forms to give shared access to someone else.
  • Download, print, and send in a form. The patient finds a form on the health system’s website (where there is info about the patient portal) or in the patient portal itself that needs to be downloaded, printed, completed, and either mailed or brought in person to the clinic.
  • Share access electronically through the portal. Once a patient is in their portal account, they find an electronic form to complete in the portal to grant shared access. They submit the form, and the care partner will receive an email to finalize the process.
  • Complete the process over the phone. A patient calls the patient portal Helpline at their health system and goes through the process with their assistance.

Being the first to speak up may feel intimidating. However, you are not alone. There are many people just like you advocating to make it normal to share access for better care.

If you work in healthcare, please view Shared Access Toolkit: Clinicians and Health Systems to learn more about how to advocate for wider use of shared access at your organization.

If you are a patient/care partner/advocate, here are three steps you can take to help:
  • Check to see how easy or hard it is to share access where you get care.
  • Connect with your health system’s PFAC (Patient and Family Advisory Council), Patient Experience office, or Health Information Technology department to share your experience and discuss how to improve it for others.
  • Share with other patients and families about the importance of shared access.

If you are a member of a PFAC or a volunteer/advisor at your health system, here are some possible steps to take:

  • Educate patients about shared access.
  • Make the process easy.
    • Work with other patients/care partners to look at the current process for how to designate shared access and give feedback to your health system on how to improve it.
  • Increase staff’s awareness about shared access and encourage them to communicate about it.
    • Partner with the health system to ensure staff know about adult shared access, know the process for granting the access, and have information to share with patients and care partners.
    • In partnership with the health system, identify all the points of contact with a patient where staff can proactively talk about shared access. For example, when a patient signs up for the portal, when patients are scheduling a telehealth visit, when sending a new patient brochure, or when a patient is accompanied by a care partner for their visit.

For more ideas, you can also review, “Shared Access Toolkit: Clinicians and Health Systems.