If your work involves healthcare technology, it’s likely you’ve heard both acronyms. Perhaps you’ve wondered about the difference between them.
The electronic health record (EHR) and the electronic medical record (EMR) are colleagues. Some might even call them friends. But they have key differences that are important to understand.
Do they do the same thing?
At their foundation, they share a common goal: to make it easier for providers to treat patients through the digital tracking of data.
The EMR arrived on the healthcare scene first. Simply put, 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.
EMRs have numerous advantages over paper records. They allow clinicians to:
Trust charts that are clear and complete, reducing time spent deciphering handwritten notes.
Easily identify which patients are due for preventive screenings or checkups.
Check how their patients are doing on parameters such as blood pressure readings or vaccinations.
Monitor and improve the overall quality of care within the practice.
The EMR allows practices to improve office workflow and provide more focused care. As its name indicates, the EMR focuses on a patient’s “medical” history.
OK … what about the EHR?
An EHR is also a digital version of the traditional patient chart. However, the EHR provides a much broader picture of the patient’s medical history. In this case, “health” covers more territory than the word “medical.”
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, and they contain information from all clinicians involved in the patient’s care.
In addition to streamlined sharing of updated, real-time information, and access to tools that can assist decision-making, advantages of EHRs include:
Information gathered by a primary care provider can tell an emergency department clinician about a patient’s life-threatening allergy or other condition, even if the patient is unable to share details of his or her condition at the time of treatment.
A patient can log on to his or her own record and see the trend of the lab results, which may 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. When information is shared securely, it allows for better care and improved results. Quality healthcare requires a team effort, and shared information helps that happen.
“Having our EHR with Intergy … you want to spend your time taking care of the patient … so the more efficient you are in doing that, the better you are at building a relationship with the families and patients that you see,” said Dr. Mike Jordan, Founder of East Lake Pediatrics.
Anything else we should know?
An EHR is necessary to meet requirements for many value-based programs that reward providers for 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.
As of 2017, nearly 86% of office-based physicians had adopted an EHR, and 80% had adopted a certified EHR, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC) most recent data available.
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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