The terms EMR and EHR are often mistakenly used interchangeably by many- even professionals in the field of health information technology. In reality, there are distinct differences between these two terms that need to be understood to avoid confusion around the office.
What's in an acronym?
If you break the two terms down into what the letters that make them up stand for, EMR refers to electronic medical record and EHR refers to electronic health record. So, only the words "medical" and "health" are different in each term.
The word medical generally refers to anything involving the diagnosis or treatment of a health condition. On the other hand, the word health is typically considered a more general term that relates to the general condition of the body.
An electronic medical record is a digital form of a clinician's paper charts detailing the history of treatment of a patient at a particular practice. For example, chiropractic EMRs can generally be expected to do all of the following:
- Keep track of data related to treatment over time
- Indicate if a patient is due for a checkup or screening
- Show data such as vaccination history or blood pressure
- Be used to improve the quality of care at a given practice
Electronic health records can be expected to contain data similar to that which is listed on EMRs. However, EHRs usually include a lot more.
An EHR includes more data and information because of the reasons for creating this type of record. EHRs are not only used within a given practice, but they are intended to be sent to other health care providers if necessary to share pertinent information on a patient.
The information on an EHR travels with a patient from health care provider to health care provider. For example, throughout a patient's medical history EHR data might be sent from a specialist to a hospital to a nursing home.
Advantages of the EHR
- Information from an EHR recorded by a primary care physician might alert an emergency department of any allergies that a patient has.
- In many cases, patients can access their own medical data through an EHR.
- Lab results run on a patient will typically be quickly recorded into the EHR so that a specialist- possibly working through a separate health care organization- will know not to run a duplicate test.
- Discharge instructions and follow-up care requirements can be drawn up for a patient so that he or she can adjust to receiving care from one facility to receiving care from a different facility.