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EMR vs EHR - Difference between EMR and EHR

July 30, 2021 - Parul Saini, Webmedy Team


The terms EHR and EMR are used interchangeably but an EHR and EMR serve different purposes despite having some similar characteristics. Understanding the difference between EHR and EMR is very important.

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One letter makes a big difference

The first step in understanding EHR vs EMR is to know that EHR stands for electronic health records and EMR stands for electronic medical records. They are similar applications but have different capabilities that you should become familiar with. An EMR recreates a patient's paper chart into a digital format. In contrast, the term "Health" in EHR refers to a patient's overall health situation and not just medical questions that are revealed by diagnosis and lab test results.

What Are Electronic Medical Records?

EMRs are digital versions of paper charts and are maintained at the doctor's office. In the early days of digital medical information, clinicians were focused on medical diagnosis and treatment, which describes why they used the term "Medical" in EMR.

An EMR contains a patient's medical history, diagnoses, and treatments by a particular physician, nurse practitioner, specialist, dentist, surgeon, or clinic.

Advantages of EMR

  • Better tracking of data over time.
  • Timely reminders for patient screenings and preventive checkups.
  • Monitor and enhance the overall quality of care within the practice.
  • Enhanced patient care.
  • Security of sensitive data.

But the information in EMRs doesn't travel easily out of the practice. The patient's record might even have to be printed out and delivered by mail to specialists and other members of the care team. In that regard, EMRs are not much better than paper records.

What are Electronic Health Records?

Electronic health records (EHRs) do all those things that EMRs do and more. An electronic health record (EHR) is also a digital version of a patient chart, but it is a more inclusive snapshot of the patient's medical history. Electronic health records are designed to be shared with other providers, so authorized users may instantly access a patient's EHR from across different healthcare providers.

EHR systems are designed to promote interoperability, which allows the transfer of real-time data between healthcare organizations when a patient starts seeing a new provider. As a result, EHR builds up a much broader picture of a patient's overall health, collecting information from every clinician involved in a patient's treatment, whereas EMR held by independent providers often focus on particular medical conditions. In the last 10-20 years, many EHRs include patient portals, which enable patients to access their medical history and track their treatment progress, giving them a greater role throughout their entire care process.

Moreover, health organizations can benefit financially from EHR software. And that makes all the difference. Because when information is shared securely, it becomes more powerful. Health care is a team effort, and shared information supports that effort. After all, much of the value derived from the health care delivery system results from the effective communication of information from one party to another and, ultimately, the ability of multiple parties to engage in interactive communication of information.

Key Differences between EMR and EHR

The main thing to understand about how these two types of systems differ is that EMR provides digital patient charts for a single practice, whereas EHR allows physicians to easily share records with other healthcare providers regardless of location.

An EMR (Electronic Medical Record) is a single practice's digital version of a patient's chart and is a narrower view of a patient's medical history, while an EHR is a more comprehensive report of the patients overall and are designed to be shared with other providers, so authorized users may instantly access a patient's medical records.

Think of an EHR as an EMR, but just a little beefier; they typically have more tools and features to provide a broader snapshot of a patient's medical history as opposed to EMR which are often more limited. EHR typically provides a broader snapshot of a patient's medical history than that of an EMR.

EMR allows you to enter information about a patient's medical care, including test results and prescription medications. You can use this kind of software to issue repeat prescriptions, schedule appointments, and bill patients. EHR software also allows e-prescribing, additionally providing communication features that allow healthcare providers from different organizations to collaborate on patient care.

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Here are some more ways in which EHR and EMR differ:

  • EMR is not designed to be shared outside of an individual clinic.
  • EHR allows a patient's medical information to travel with them to different specialists, labs, imaging facilities, pharmacies, and more.
  • EHR provides users with the entirety of a patient's medical history, regardless of location and across state lines.
  • An EMR is mainly used by providers for diagnosis and treatment, whereas EHRs, are designed to share a patient's information with authorized providers and staff from more than one organization.

So, yes, the difference between "electronic medical records" and "electronic health records" is just one word. But in that word, there is a world of difference.

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