The Difference Between EHRs and EMRs

the PicnicHealth Team
May 1, 2020
Blog post originally written by the AllStripes community team. AllStripes was acquired by PicnicHealth in 2023.

One of the most common questions we get asked at PicnicHealth is this: What’s the difference between an electronic health record (EHR) and an electronic medical record (EMR)? In many cases, the terms are used interchangeably. But there are a few ways to differentiate between the two terms accurately.

Defining an Electronic Medical Record

According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, electronic medical records are the digital versions of the patient paper charts that you might have already seen around hospitals or in the offices of healthcare providers. They often contain notes, lab remarks, and other crucial patient-related information that are collected by the clinicians for other clinicians in this specific office or hospital. Healthcare providers use EMRs like these to make a diagnosis for the patient. EMRs often contain the medical and treatment histories of a patient that come from a single practice or a hospital. Other clinicians might be able to make use of this information to track the patient’s progress over time, indicate their next screenings, or measure the improvement in the patient’s condition. It also allows them to make better decisions in their quality of care.

However, the difference between the EMR and an EHR lies in flexibility; EMRs are typically restricted within the hospital or doctor’s office where it was generated. It’s seen by clinicians and specialists within the hospital that it was made, and often only seen by the care team assigned to a specific patient. It’s similar to the way a paper chart would only be found within that particular hospital unless someone outside asks for it. That’s where the EHR comes in.

Defining an Electronic Health Record

An electronic health record is similar in many ways to the EMR. But it does more than hold than hold that specific hospital or office’s patient history. 

An electronic health record typically contains the totality of a patient’s health and medical history and can include data from across multiple practices and healthcare providers. It consists of the patient’s medical and treatment history, their prescriptions, medications, the procedures they have undergone, their laboratory results, and progress in therapy sessions, among others. Virtually any piece of information about the patient’s health that has been generated by a healthcare provider can go into an EHR.

What makes an EHR special is that it’s specifically built and designed for sharing across different organizations and other healthcare providers. The National Alliance for Health Information Technology defines clearly that EHR data can be “created, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff across more than one healthcare organization.” Unlike an EMR, the EHRs can move where the patient goes. If they need a new specialist, healthcare provider, or hospital, the EHR is available and allows healthcare personnel to get a good look at the patient and provide them with the right kind of healthcare.

Is one better than the other?

Both of these forms of data can be extremely valuable to a patient. They have both become standard practice in various healthcare facilities. They both provide rapid access to patient data when needed, and share that information securely to protect the patient’s private information.

Complete, legible documentation reduces medical errors, as well as provides the most up-to-date and accurate information about the patient’s overall health. Doctors and healthcare personnel looking after a patient they may have never met before will have a better overview of their health history and be made aware of specifications such as allergies, pre-existing conditions, and other pertinent information.

The term EHR is a bit broader in describing records specifically built to go between different healthcare providers and clinicians. It’s more accessible and represents the real flexibility of a digital records system.

Discover more essential aspects of electronic health records along with the importance of patient privacy by visiting


the PicnicHealth Team

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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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