EHR vs EMR – Is There a Difference?January 20, 2012
There are people that still use the acronyms and terms (EHR) electronic health record and (EMR) electronic medical record interchangeably. Is there a difference between EHR’s and EMR’s?
The answer is YES.
The fact is that electronic based medical records technology, initially introduced as EMR’s, has rapidly evolved into much more robust and capable systems over the last few years. With advancements in the technology, EHR’s or electronic health records systems of today have a much broader range of functionality where early EMR’s were used by clinicians mostly for diagnosis and treatment. The utilization of early EMR’s systems was truly “medical” in nature.
In contrast, the word “health” is a much broader term that covers much more than the word “medical” does. EHR’s today goes a lot further that EMR’s.
So what’s the difference?
Without going through an extensive deep-drill from a technology perspective, electronic medical records (EMR’s) are a digital version of the paper charts in the clinician’s office. An EMR contains the medical treatment history of the patients in one practice. But the information in EMR’s does not travel easily out of the practice. In fact, in order for the practice to send the patient’s information to a specialist or other members of the care team, the patient’s record may have to be printed out and delivered by mail, fax or courier. In that regard, first generation EMR systems are not much better than a paper record.
However, electronic health records (EHR’s), does everything an EMR does and more. EHR systems today focus on the total health of the patient which goes beyond standard clinical data collected in the provider’s office and inclusive of a broader view on patient’s care. EHR’s are designed to reach out beyond the health organization that originally collects and compiles the information. They are designed to share information with other health care providers, such as specialists and laboratories, so they contain information from all the clinicians involved in the patient’s care. In further comparing the differences between EMR’s and EHR’s, HIMSS Analytics stated that, “The EHR represents the ability to easily share medical information among stakeholders and to have a patient’s information follow him or her through various modalities of care engaged by that individual.” EHR’s are designed to be accessed by all people involved in the patient’s care including the patients themselves.
EHR’s are in the forefront of the movement towards health information exchanges within communities, the accountable care organization model, and improving overall health and patient outcomes.