What is the difference between EHR and EMR?

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What is the difference between EHR and EMR? EHR or electronic health record manages a digital record of a patient’s record across systems, devices and practices, so any clinic with access to the system can view a holisitic picture of the patient’s history. Whereas EMR or electronic medical record involves only the medical record of a patient’s specific diagnosis and is usually limited to a clinic’s record. You can say EMR is a subset of EHR. In general, EHR is useful to a medical practice network while EMR is ideal for an independent clinical practice. 

Digital medical information is prevalent in today’s healthcare industry as it promotes accuracy, convenience, and comprehensiveness. With that, as with any industry, jargons are developed and used by professionals for ease of transmission in both writing and speaking. This may leave many non-experts and members of the public unaware of these concepts.

Some terms that are commonly tossed around, oftentimes interchangeably, are EHR and EMR. While the two have similarities, they also possess relevant differences which lead many to ask: What is the difference between EHR and EMR?

In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between EHR and EMR beyond what their acronyms stand for. Each of them varies in their purpose, function, and capability which are important for you to know especially if you’re looking for a solution to implement in your healthcare ecosystem.

Emergence of Electronic Records in the Healthcare Industry

The channels where the medical healthcare industry was breached. (Source: HIT Consultant)

In this day and age, a paper-based system won’t suffice. Filing cabinets and relying on staff to access paper records make a bad business practice. In the United States alone, there’s an estimate of over 800,000 physicians, 200,000 dentists, 5,000 hospitals, 16,000 nursing homes and 200,000 laboratories. A single patient can take up more than 11 sheets of paper to record their information. Since facilities handle more than one patient each day, this approach accumulates numerous stacks of paper over time.

Relying on a paper-based system is inefficient and not secure. It even exposes your data to potential errors, difficulty in retrieval, and theft. According to a Ponemon Institute study that looked at 350 companies in 11 countries, data breach costs an organization an average total of $3.8million as reported by Healthcare Dive. The healthcare industry also takes the most expensive industry for breach based on a worldwide per capita cost of $363. This is not a rare case as 94% of healthcare organizations have experienced at least one data breach. Meanwhile, 18% of them revealed the data breach resulted in an alarming medical identity theft.

These statistics stress the importance of having electronic records for any modern practice. Office-based physicians understand its importance which is demonstrated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Electronic Health Records Survey where 86.9% of them have an EHR and EMR system.

EHR versus EMR

EHR and EMR are often used in the healthcare industry and most of the time, they are referred to interchangeably. However, not everyone can clearly define the difference between the two. What is the difference between EHR and EMR? For a quick answer, both are similar applications with different capabilities. In fact, both offer the same function: documentation.

EHR means Electronic Health Record with the word “health” covering a more in-depth information about a person’s overall health. Meanwhile, EMR refers to Electronic Medical Record with the word “medical” referencing on a patient’s medical diagnosis and treatment.

To get a better understanding, we’ll discuss each of the two in more depth below. We also gathered some leading examples for both EHR and EMR to streamline your search.

What is an EHR software?

EHR software is a digital record of a patient’s health information. Despite having mostly the same functions as an EMR (which we’ll get into later), it provides more capabilities as it handles beyond the standard clinical data available. Instead, it focuses on a patient’s overall health by accessing a broader view of the care they are receiving.

The EHR system is designed to follow a patient from one specialist or practice to another throughout their lives and collect all their medical information from all healthcare sources along the way. This includes information commonly found in a paper chart such as the patient’s past medical history, progress notes, allergies, vital signs, immunization dates, lab data, imaging reports, diagnoses, and medications. It may even contain insurance information and demographic data, among others. All the details about the symptoms, treatments, vaccinations, and prescriptions give the physician a complete picture of the patient’s health records.

The major difference that really sets EHR apart from EMR is its interoperability. After recording information from various clinicians who are involved in the patient’s care, the system administers sharing these data outside the practice by making it instantly and easily accessible by other authorized health care providers.

EHR is considered the “future of healthcare” as it engages a notable improvement from a paper-based system. Using EHR in a healthcare ecosystem enables faster searching, retrieval and electronic sharing. The coordination of critical data between different provides is streamlined which paves the way for better clinical decisions.

Furthermore, it’s a requirement for the Meaningful Use Incentive program. CEHRT (Certified Electronic Health Records Technology) follows a roadmap of features and functions that help eligible providers avoid penalties on reimbursements and qualify for incentives. This was established by the CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services).

Examples of an EHR Software

If you are looking for an EHR solution, we collected some examples of the leading products in this niche.

TherapyNotes. TherapyNotes leads our EHR software category with its robust set of features that provides an all-around solution to facilitate the workflow of mental health professionals.  Our review experts rated it as the top choice in this category, meriting it our Expert’s Choice Award for 2018. This behavioral health practice management platform lives in the cloud which allows users to oversee their day to day operations anywhere, especially when it comes to scheduling and tracking appointments. As an EHR tool, it improves the quality of your healthcare service by ensuring an accurate and secure interoperability with other healthcare professionals. It’s also packed with features such as electronic billing, data recovery, patient notes, and security and compliance. For more information about this software, you can read about its pros and cons here or you can sign up for a TherapyNotes free trial here.

Care360. This software best fits with ambulatory services. It’s a web-based solution designed for practices such as family medicine, pediatrics, multi-specialty, cardiology, internal medicine, and OBGYN but it’s also flexible to be used across various medical specialties. It has robust reporting capabilities, electronic lab management, customizable templates and e-prescribing that enable facilities of any size to mobilize patients from any location without compromising accuracy and security.

Practice Fusion. This is another reliable web-based EHR solution that’s built to facilitate the daily operations of small and medium-sized medical facilities. It’s also available for free which is helpful for solo practitioners. The platform unifies the connection between patients and healthcare providers while allowing mobilization of patient records. Its top features include patient scheduling, e-prescribing, charting, lab and imaging integration, and Patient Portal, among others.

A dashboard showing the scheduling interface of TherapyNotes, a robust and full-featured EHR software solution.

What is an EMR software?

EMR is a digitized version of a paper chart which contains the patient’s medical history, diagnoses, medications, immunizations, and allergies. This helps clinicians keep track of historical data for each visit, monitor patients due for a checkup, and check a patient’s health levels in order to improve the quality of healthcare. This system is essential for a physician to stay on top of the state of the practice and determine how it’s doing with the treatment process. With that, it works well for a healthcare provider’s needs.

However, it can be a challenge when a patient has to be referred to another specialist since the system doesn’t travel outside the practice. It’s designed to remain and live primarily in the single practice where the patient visits. They can still be shared with other healthcare organizations and specialists but transferring the data can be a challenge. The patient records will have to be printed out and mailed to another provider.

For instance, if a patient has to see an endocrinologist, sharing the patient’s medical information is necessary. If the specialist has anything to add, your staff will have to manually type in the new information from the specialist’s faxed or mailed documentation. In this aspect, it’s limited capability is not so different from a paper-based system.

Still, it’s one of the first approaches that centralized and streamlined healthcare information and delivery during the rise of computers in the healthcare workplace. Despite its limitations, it effectively captures information digitally for easier population health modeling and faster historical data searchability.

Examples of an EMR Software

Below are some examples of the leading EMR software products you may check out:

Cerner EMR. It’s a powerful and intelligent electronic medical record platform that’s developed on a person-centric, unified, and scalable architecture. It also has a built-in expert medical knowledge to reduce manual actions and improve efficiencies. With an enterprise-wide and multi-facility capability, the system ensures the effective management of patients’ medical records in both ambulatory settings and acute care services that suit your custom needs.

Optum Physician EMR. This is an EHR solution with full integration to necessary medical practice operations for a value-based care system. The app is accessible through a cloud-based gateway that streamlines the way physicians access and manage medical records. With the aid of templates with guidelines, customizable chart summaries, analytics, and practice management functionalities, you can ensure the preservation of your patient’s health.

EpicCare. This is a physician-friendly EMR system which is also built for large hospitals and a wide variety of healthcare specialties and fields. It simplifies the workflows of physicians when it comes to managing and storing the medical records of patients. It promotes leveraging the quality of healthcare through an effective monitoring of patient’s medical information through a unified system in your facility or practice.

Sample patient’s record on Cerner system.

Which is Better: EHR or EMR?

What is the difference between EHR and EMR? As mentioned, the two are mostly the same in terms of function and what they want to replace: paper-based systems. Meanwhile, their difference lies in their capabilities as one, the EHR, offers interoperability. If you’re curious to know which is better, the only way to determine the answer is through an in-depth evaluation of your daily operations and its needs.

When you consider semantics, yes, EHR offers more as it can seamlessly travel from one practice or provider to the next as its focal point is on the exchange of mental health information between providers. On the other hand, EMR is the legacy system that transforms a patient’s chart into digital representations – a function that an EHR also does.

The crucial thing, however, is having a system that foregoes the time-consuming and arduous process of paper-based charting and handwritten records. Considering your requirements, IT budget, or career stage, what’s highly important is enabling the progressive and valuable adoption of healthcare technologies in your workflow to improve the quality of your services.

Category: B2B News

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