What’s the Difference Between EHR and EMR?


As the deadline for Meaningful Use attestation approaches, it’s clear what practices need to do: Implement an EMR system. Or is it EHR? Maybe it’s not so cut and dry.

While electronic health records (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR) are often used interchangeably, there is a significant difference in the form and function of the two systems.

The drive to digitize patient records is in full swing, but there remains some misunderstanding over the proper nomenclature for describing the product. To help reduce confusion, we consulted the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) for some clarity.

EMRs came first and were used exclusively by clinicians for diagnosis and treatment. EHRs are the next iteration of the process and go much further than the EMRs in the information contained and accessibility, according to an ONC explanation.

What’s an EMR?
An EMR is a digital, in-house version of a patient’s chart that contains medical and treatment history. It delivers a more comprehensive and transparent view of patient data than a traditional paper chart.

EMRs have the ability to improve data tracking, identify patients due for checkups and screenings, manage patient parameters, and monitor and improve the quality of care.

However, this data isn’t easily shared outside of the practice with the rest of the care team. In fact, it may have to be converted back to the paper to share with specialists or patients.

What’s an EHR?
An EHR encompasses all the clinical data contained in an EMR and more. EHRs are designed to take the collected patient data and securely share it across healthcare organizations to improve the continuity of care.

“The EHR represents the ability to easily share medical information among stakeholders and to have a patient’s information follow him or her through the various modalities of care engaged by that individual,” states HIMSS Analytics.

The ability for everyone involved in a patient’s care – including the patient – to have quick and secure access to crucial information will deliver greater collaboration and a higher standard of care.

This is why EHRs are a key element of Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, which aims to improve efficiency, reduce mistakes and cut costs of health care.

EHRs deliver a more comprehensive view of a patient’s health record that can be shared with authorized members of the patient’s care team to provide more coordinated and efficient care.

The ability for patients and their providers to collaborate and review data in real-time will help engage patients in their own health care and facilitate better outcomes.

While EMRs presented a step up from paper charts, EHRs are the next step in the development of healthcare IT.

Has your practice implemented an EMR or EHR? Tell us how you chose one.

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