You may have heard the acronyms EMR and EHR used interchangeably; however, they have important differences.
An understanding of the differences between the terms electronic medical record (EMR) and electronic health record (EHR) reveals the progress information technology (IT) has made within the healthcare industry.
EMR had significant advantages to the paper-based system it replaced. First adopted in government hospitals in the 1970s, it became the standard before the turn of the millennium. While revolutionary to the field, it still lacked interoperability, a costly source of inefficiency. EHR, designed to fill this gap, soon became the new goalpost. The Federal Government has invested significantly to make it the industry standard. Today, EHR is viewed to inevitably replace EMR.
What is an EMR?
An electronic medical record is the digital version of the paper charts in clinician offices, clinics, and hospitals. It contains a patient’s medical and treatment history collected by and for one particular practice. EMRs are used, for example, to track data overtime and identify which patients are due for preventive screenings or checkups. EMRs, more than paper records, allow clinicians to monitor and improve the quality of their care.
What is an EHR?
An electronic health record is designed to chart a patient’s total health and for access and contribution by any of his or her healthcare providers. This record follows a patient wherever it is needed and streamlines sharing of up-to-date information.
Both EHR and EMR are an improvement to the traditional paper record system. Electronic records prevent legibility concerns and reduce medical errors. This effect is exemplified well in the process of administering medication. Oversights in documenting when a patient was given which medication or providing the wrong dose, drug, form, or not checking for allergies have been reduced by 53-88% since electronic records have been adopted, which require certain steps in order to avoid such errors. They also improved the standardization of forms, terminology, and data input, which reduced unnecessary complications and facilitated data collection for epidemiological and clinical study.
What’s the difference between EMR and EHR?
What distinguishes the terms “health” and “medical” in this context is comprehensiveness. The medical record relates to the patient’s diagnosis and treatment within one practice, while the health record represents all relevant information as documented throughout the patient’s healthcare experience.
EHR software conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards, because the record is built to follow a patient. EMR software, on the other hand, is designed to stay in an individual practice. By containing a more robust account of the patient’s history, EHRs help to avoid redundancy and oversights and enhance the decision-making process.
Let’s take a closer look at this.
Federal Efforts to Promote EHR
Federal agencies have been created and policies enacted to encourage the adoption and optimization of EHR across the nation.
In 2004 the Office of the National Coordinator for Information Technology (ONC) was created “as a resource to the entire health system to support the adoption of health information technology and the promotion of nationwide health information exchange to improve health care” (see healthit.gov). The ONC is largely responsible for the increased use of EHR over EMR due to its coordinated effort to implement advanced health information technology and the exchange of health information nationwide.
The ONC was created by Republican president George Bush and expanded by a Democratic Congress under the Obama administration.
In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), was enacted to improve and modernize healthcare in the United States. HITECH broadly expanded the ONC in funding, personnel, and efforts. It also established the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Service’s (CMS’s) EHR incentives program, broadly termed “Meaningful Use”. By implementing meaningful uses of EHR–uses that benefit the provider and patient alike–providers are entitled to numerous financial benefits. In fact, achievement of some Meaningful Use goals entitles practices to direct payments.
Today, these programs continue to receive broad, bipartisan support for their efforts towards the adoption and advancement of EHR software. Clearly, it is expected to have a significant role to play in the development and refinement of the country’s healthcare system.
Benefits of EHR
National policymakers emphasize EHR, because it is a cost-effective way to modernize healthcare across the board. It allows providers to better manage and improve their care by:
- Offering immediate access to complete and up-to-date records for coordination and efficiency at the point of care.
- Enhancing the clinical decision-making process.
- Reducing medical errors and providing safer care
- Providing means of sharing information with clinicians and the patient, while improving data security and patient privacy.
- Making prescribing more reliable and safe.
- Making the patient-provider interaction more convenient, streamlined, and efficient, thus increasing patient satisfaction, clinical productivity and business goals, and clinician work-life balance.
- Reducing healthcare costs for the provider and patient alike by preventing redundancy, decreasing paperwork, increasing safety, and improving health.
- Promoting accurate and streamlined coding and billing.
These benefits are not theoretical. As early as 2011, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that practices using EHR provided better quality care. Since then, the capabilities of EHR software have only improved. Studies have also shown EHRs to offer substantial benefits in emergency situations. That’s not to take away from the fact that EHRs also improve the prevention of such emergencies, which studies indicate, too.
Clearly, the modern healthcare setting and EHR are inseparable. Practices that have adopted EHR have a clear edge–their patients, a clear benefit.
Not all EHR systems are created equal
Medicaid and Medicare Incentive Programs have required that eligible EHRs be Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT). Likewise, an ONC certification ensures that an EHR system is designed to promote interoperability between other providers and sources. Practices with EHR systems that have these certifications and meet Meaningful Use standards maximize benefits to productivity and access to financial incentives.
The right EHR allows for the optimized formatting of health data. It should give access to evidence-based tools and assessments for better clinical decision-making. The right EHRs should manage clinical workflows through an interactive interface that engages the provider in offering better care by way of on-screen alerts or prompts.
Zoobook Systems is CEHRT and ONC-ACB certified and features cutting-edge capabilities designed for mental health and addiction treatment services. Among them are comprehensive HIPAA compliant security that assures patient data privacy and security, even in transmission between providers; easy and seamless client communication, like our patient portals, where patients may access their data and add to the record when needed; analytics which interpret clinical data and to enhance clinical decision-making; integrated billing configured for an intuitive, hassle-free experience; toolkits that engage clinicians and mitigate turnover; bi-directional lab interfaces that reduce medical error; and customized menus and widgets tailored to mental health and addiction treatment services that ensure regulatory compliance.
These are features designed for practices to improve their quality of care and qualify for Meaningful Use incentives without breaking their budget. The right EHR is fundamental for a practice to meet its business goals. For mental health and addiction treatment services, Zoobooks is that EHR.