The Difference Between EHRs and EMRs

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 PicnicHealth.com.