The Difference Between EHR and EMR

EMR vs EHR – What is the Difference?

Often used interchangeably, the terms “electronic medical record” and “electronic health record” (EMR and EHR respectively) are very similar. However, they are not the same thing. The differences between the two may seem small at first glance but are significant in the world of healthcare.


What are Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)

An electronic medical record is a digital replacement for a patient’s paper chart. An EMR is accessible by a single practice and is primarily used for diagnosis and treatment. This would include a patient’s medical history, previous and current medications, diagnoses, allergies, and more. Electronic medical records aren’t designed to be shared with other practices, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.

Benefits of EMRs over Paper Charting Include:

  • Improved access to patient documentation
  • Better tracking of patients over time

What are Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

An electronic health record includes all of the information contained in an electronic medical record and more. The primary benefit is the collaborative nature of an EHR. They are designed to be shared with other healthcare providers and to aid the level of care provided across the care continuum. EHRs also present the ability to track additional information inclusive of demographic data, lab results, insurance information, prior authorizations and data from personal wellness devices from across the internet-of-things (IOT).

EHRs also played a significant role in the rollout of Meaningful Use, the Medicare/Medicaid program that mandates the use of EHR to improve patient outcomes and subsequently performance-based compensation. The same goes for the latest regulation – MACRA – which continues the progression of performance monitoring to impose penalties or grant bonuses to providers. The term EHR has been more commonly used than EMR as of late due to its preferential stance from both the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information (ONC).

Benefits of EHRs

  • Access to the complete medical history of patients across the care continuum
  • The ability to share a patient’s medical history seamlessly between general practitioners, specialists, labs, hospitals, pharmacies and anywhere else that is authorized to access it.
  • Access to a variety of complex tools including: E-Prescribing, speech recognition/dictation, advanced reporting and more

EMR vs EHR – The Differences

Both EMRs and EHRs make healthcare more efficient than their paper predecessor. However,  it is safe to consider an EHR the next-generation EMR. As the healthcare industry shifts towards value-based care, EHRs have become the primary technology used for tracking patients across the care continuum. The primary differences between the two include:

  • An EHR, Assuming it is a Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT), meets meaningful use standards for incentive-based programs administered by the CMS. EMRs do not.
  • EHRs are designed to be shared and expanded upon outside of a single practice where EMRs are not.
  • EMRs are restricted in scope to primarily diagnosis and treatment information. EHRs provide in-depth data across a patient’s medical history from a variety of sources.
  • EHRs move with the patient across providers, states and event country borders. EMRs do not travel with patient’s easily