You may have heard the acronyms EMR and EHR used synonymously, but do you know how they are different and why it is important?
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. The technology that allowed providers to digitize health records was first referred to as an EMR.
The first IT systems were developed primarily for the medical industry to store thousands of medical records more efficiently by turning printed or written documents into digital copies. Today, EMR is an antiquated acronym representing the earlier developments in health information technology, while EHR is representative of the many modern advancements.
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” (healthit.gov). The ONC is mostly 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 distinguishes between EMR and EHR with the following description (see healthit.gov):
Electronic medical records (EMRs) are digital versions of the paper charts in clinician offices, clinics, and hospitals. EMRs contain notes and information collected by and for the clinicians in that office, clinic, or hospital and are mostly used by providers for diagnosis and treatment. EMRs are more valuable than paper records because they enable providers to track data over time, identify patients for preventive visits and screenings, monitor patients, and improve healthcare quality.
Electronic health records (EHRs) are built to go beyond standard clinical data collected in a provider’s office and are inclusive of a broader view of a patient’s care. EHRs contain information from all the clinicians involved in a patient’s care and all authorized clinicians involved in a patient’s care can access the information to provide care to that patient. EHRs also share information with other health care providers, such as laboratories and specialists. EHRs follow patients – to the specialist, the hospital, the nursing home, or even across the country.
“Health” as opposed to “medical” is a much broader term that encompasses the breadth and width of the latest information technology. While the medical record relates to the clinical diagnosis and treatment within a single practice or hospital, the health record is a more complete representation of a patient’s health that conforms to the nationally recognized interoperability standards.
More than merely the preservation of data, an EHR allows for the structured formatting of the data pertaining to medications, allergies, treatment plans, lab results, etc. EHRs contain evidence-based tools and assessments for better decision-making regarding diagnosis and treatment. EHRs help manage clinical workflows through an interactive interface that engages the provider in offering better care by way of on-screen alerts or prompts.
There are many more helpful features offered by modern EHR systems that improve health care. It is the reason why Medicaid and Medicare Incentive Programs have required that eligible EHRs be Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT). The National Alliance for Health Information Technology states that such EHR system data “can be created, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff across more than one healthcare organization.” An ONC certification ensures that an EHR system is designed to promote interoperability between other providers and sources. These certified EHR systems also meet the meaningful use standards where EMR systems do not.
EHRs like Zoobook Systems have many added capabilities. Among them are comprehensive HIPAA compliant security, patient portals, analytics, reports, integrated billing, and interfacing with labs. Certified EHR systems keep the patient data secure even in transmission between providers. Patients can access their data and add to the record where needed through secure online patient portals. Important analytics and reports can be drawn from the clinical data. This feature is becoming increasingly vital as the industry follows Medicaid and Medicare toward value-based care. Integrated billing and bi-directional lab interface are the latest benefits an EHR can offer for streamlining workflows.
There is a big difference between an EMR and an EHR. The difference is important for providers to know.