An Introduction to Electronic Health Records

the PicnicHealth Team
April 21, 2020
Blog post originally written by the AllStripes community team. AllStripes was acquired by PicnicHealth in 2023.

At PicnicHealth, we know that many people are unaware of how precisely electronic health records, also known as EHRs, work. It’s understandable—a lot of people still remember their doctors taking notes on medical charts and sheets of paper. Some still do. 

But EHRs have transformed the way medical records are used, stored, and communicated across medical practitioners.

What are Electronic Health Records?

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology or ONC officially defines an electronic health record as a digital version of the paper charts that patients have grown accustomed to when they see a doctor. However, EHRs are more efficient and effective than paper in maintaining patient records.

EHRs provide a real-time, patient-centric record that becomes more immediately available and accessible to both the patient and medical personnel. It can be updated a lot more easily than a physical document, eliminates redundant paperwork, and prevents accidentally making use of an out-of-date chart or information.

What’s in an Electronic Health Record?

Typically, an EHR will contain the medical and treatment histories of a patient, providing a better and broader view of a patient’s history. The records can include the patient’s:

  • Complete medical history
  • Diagnoses and illness
  • Medications and prescriptions
  • Treatment plans
  • Immunization dates
  • Full allergy details
  • Radiology images and history
  • Laboratory tests and results

Who has access to these records?

EHRs can also only be created and managed by authorized providers. Because the file is in digital form, it’s easier to share the record with multiple authorized healthcare providers and organizations. This ability is inherently what EHRs are designed for: to share patient information and details with other providers such as pharmacies, emergency facilities, school and workplace clinics, medical imaging facilities, laboratories, and more. This gives clinicians who are directly involved in the patient’s care a good overview of a patient’s health information, allowing them to make better decisions.

Understanding Basic Terms

These are some of the basic terms to know about EHRs and EHR software.


Certification refers to the approval that is granted to EHR software that fulfills various requirements. In the U.S., the authority that decides what basic features that software handling EHR must possess is the Certification Committee for Health Information Technology (CCHIT).

Electronic Medical Record

You might be wondering the difference between an EHR and an EMR or electronic medical record. For the most part, EMR is simply an older term that is still widely used. This term is now more often used about clinical functions of EHR software, such as checking for interactions with drugs, allergies, and encounter documentation, among others. EHR is often used to refer to a system that holds records from more than one hospital or doctor’s office.

Integrated EHR

This refers to a form of EHR that can get integrated with practice management software. Some EHRs can function independently and are compatible with most practice management systems.

EHRs and its Challenges

Of course, no EHR is not perfect. Patients are understandably concerned about their records, which contain a great deal of highly sensitive and private information. Healthcare providers have many things to consider when it comes to choosing the right one as well. There are many stringent restrictions and requirements for software that will handle EHRs, and most of them are for the patients’ protection. Unfortunately, patients generally have no say in which EHR their providers use. Some independent EHRs will aggregate portions of a patients’ medical record. Some work through APIs (application programming interfaces) to collect standardized information from different providers. PicnicHealth collects the most complete records by going directly to your providers to collect all records, whether paper or digital, and put them into a single digital timeline.

Want someone to collect all of your medical records? Visit to get access to all of your EHRs and more.


the PicnicHealth Team

About PicnicHealth

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Create a List

List the names of all the doctors, hospitals, and other facilities your loved one visits regularly, along with those they have visited in the past. Try to go back as far as you can, striving for at least the last 5-10 years, but do your best. Even if you can’t remember them all, having a strong baseline can help you quickly identify gaps in records.

Ensure You Have the Appropriate Legal Status

It is important to make sure that you are fully empowered to make decisions on behalf of your loved one with Alzheimer’s. Your relationship status with the patient may not be enough to legally give you access to your loved one's medical information. It is a good idea to talk to an expert about securing special legal status, such as Power of Attorney (POA), a legal document that allows an individual to name someone as their decision maker should they no longer be able to make decisions on their own.

Gather and Organize the Medical Records in One Place

It’s important to have all of your loved one’s medical records together in one spot. This makes it much easier for you and your loved one’s physicians to accurately map the patient’s medical journey and more easily share information between doctors. Fortunately, tools exist to make record management and access simple. A free resource like PicnicHealth helps you collect and organize all of this information. PicnicHealth’s intuitive timeline allows you to pinpoint data across the medical history, eliminating your need for keeping heavy binders filled with paper records or keeping track of multiple software portal logins.

Review the Medical Records to be an Informed Advocate

The better you understand your loved one's medical history, the better you can advocate on their behalf. Access and understanding of this information will help you to ask informed questions with physicians. Through regular communication backed by the data in the medical records, you can help your loved one’s care team develop a more successful care plan.

Learn more about PicnicHealth’s commitment to the Alzheimer’s community and the Alzheimer’s Association

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Together, we can make a difference.

Learn more about PicnicHealth’s commitment to the Alzheimer’s community and the Alzheimer’s Association

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Build a support network.

When you’re juggling appointment times and insurance claims, putting a robust support system together might not strike you as the most urgent task. Investing the time to cultivate relationships with people can turn to in times of need will pay dividends. The next time you need a last-minute ride or just someone to listen, you won’t be on your own.

There are many condition-specific support groups and support groups for caregivers generally in person or online. In addition to the encouragement and empathy they provide, support groups can be a helpful source of tips, resources, and recommendations for navigating caregiving.


Stay organized.

The backbone of effective caregiving is organization. Keep medical information, appointment schedules, and medication lists in order. Use a planner or a digital service like PicnicHealth to stay on top of your responsibilities. This attention to detail can prevent future complications and reduce day-to-day stress.


Explore treatments and clinical trials.

We’ve seen incredible breakthroughs in treatment over the past couple of years, powered by patients and their caregivers participating in research. Stay in the loop about the latest in medical advancements and available resources that could benefit your loved one. Whether it’s a new therapy option or a community service that aids independence, being informed can make a world of difference in the quality of care you provide.


Make time for self-care.

It may seem self-centered to focus on self-care—but when you feel good, you can be a better caregiver. Whether it’s exercise, a mindfulness practice, a soak in the bath, or just time to rest when you need it, carve out those moments in the day when you can unwind, reset, and stay healthy mentally and physically. Think of it as building up your reserves of kindness, patience, and understanding—which can only benefit your loved one. No one can pour from an empty cup.

Having trouble managing your loved one's medical records?

Easily manage all of your loved one's medical records and contribute to ongoing Alzheimer's research with PicnicHealth.

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LC-FAOD Odyssey: A Preliminary Analysis, presented at INFORM 2021

Data from real-world medical records:

(from 13 patients with LC-FAOD)

16 yrs old

Median age at enrollment

38% Female

15 providers / patient

7.5 years of data / patient

Data from patient-reported outcome (PRO) survey

(from 13 patients with LC-FAOD)

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However, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine the appropriate amount of protein for your individual needs. In general, a diet with moderate protein intake (about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day) is recommended for people with kidney diseases.

Learn more about contributing to IgAN research with PicnicHealth. 

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