EHR vs. EMR: Sharing common bonds and a unique relationship
For starters, it isn’t a competition.
Despite how often they’re pitted against each other — “EHR vs. EMR” or “Which is better, EHR or EMR?” — the “electronic health record” and the “electronic medical record” are in fact colleagues … some might even call them friends.
At their foundation, they share a common goal: to make it easier for providers to treat patients through the digital tracking of data.
So, they do the same thing?
Not exactly, although there is some overlap.
The electronic medical record arrived on the healthcare scene first. Put simply, the EMR is a digital version of the paper chart in the clinician’s office. It contains the patient’s medical history, diagnoses, and treatments by physician, nurse practitioner, specialist, dentist, surgeon, or clinic.
Sure, there are physicians who still prefer the pen-and-paper method, but EMRs have numerous advantages over paper records. For example, EMRs allow clinicians to:
Trust charts that are clear and complete — so no more trying to decipher scribbled handwritten notes.
Easily identify which patients are due for preventive screenings or checkups.
Check how their patients are doing on certain parameters — such as blood pressure readings or vaccinations.
Monitor and improve overall quality of care within the practice.
The EMR allows practices to take a big step toward improved office workflow and more focused care. As the name suggests, the EMR focuses on a patient’s “medical” history.
OK … what about the EHR?
An electronic health record is also a digital version of the traditional patient chart. However, the EHR is a more inclusive snapshot of the patient’s medical history. Again, as the name suggests, “health” covers a lot more territory than the word “medical.” And EHRs go a lot further than EMRs.
EHRs focus on the total health of the patient. They go beyond standard clinical data collected in the provider’s office and offer a broader view of a patient’s care. EHRs are built to share information with additional healthcare providers, such as specialists, so they contain information from all the clinicians involved in the patient’s care.
In addition to streamlined sharing of updated, real-time information, and access to tools that providers can use for decision-making, advantages of EHRs include:
The information gathered by a primary care provider can tell an emergency department clinician about a patient’s life-threatening allergy or other condition, so care can be adjusted appropriately, even if the patient is unconscious.
A patient can log on to his or her own record and see the trend of the lab results over the last year, which can provide motivation to take medications and keep up with the lifestyle changes that have improved the numbers.
Lab results arrive in the record in a timely manner, informing the specialist of what he or she needs to know, and avoiding duplicate tests.
A clinician’s notes from a patient’s hospital stay can help inform discharge instructions and follow-up care and enable the patient to move from one care setting to another more smoothly.
EHRs give access to everyone involved in the patients’ care — including the patients themselves. In fact, the information moves with the patient to the specialist, the hospital, the nursing home, or even across the country.
And that’s the key … when information is shared securely, it allows for better care and improved results. In order to be successful, healthcare requires a team effort, and shared information allows that to happen.
Anything else we should know?
An EHR is also necessary to meet requirements for many value-based programs that reward providers for the quality over quantity. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), for example, provides incentive payments based on care provided to patients with Medicare. To perform in value-based programs, providers must follow a set of criteria that serve as a roadmap for using an EHR effectively.
Which one is the winner ... ehr vs emr?
The EHR owes its favorable position to the groundwork established by the EMR … which means we can’t choose a winner. That being said, the EHR is the future of healthcare because it provides critical data that informs clinical decisions, and it helps coordinate care between everyone in the healthcare ecosystem.
In the end, when physicians have the tools to provide better care, we’re all winners.
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