EMR vs. EHR — Much Ado About Nothing?


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Electronic Medical RecordsRapid innovations in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) during the last few decades have spurred the growth of the global economy. But while many have recognized the potential of ICT for transformation and development, its diffusion, along with its benefits, have not been spread evenly across industries. This is nowhere more evident than in Healthcare.

With the recognition of ICT as a potential game-changer in the healthcare industry, it’s only inevitable that people start to realize the need to move patient medical records from paper to electronic format. However, with all the acronyms related to medical records, such as EMR and EHR, being used interchangeably, it leaves physicians in a confused state as to which is which. Is there really a difference between an electronic medical record (EMR) and an electronic health record (EHR)? And does it even matter?

The healthcare industry has not yet come to a consensus from the myriad definitions of EMR and EHR, and while there are a lot of similarities between the two, the difference is noticeably significant.

In 2008, the National Alliance for Health Information Technology in the US proposed standard definitions for EMR and EHR. According to their definitions, an EMR is an electronic record of health-related information on an individual that can be created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff in one health care organization.

In simpler terms, an EMR is just a digital version of paper charts containing the records of health information of the patient in one clinical practice. There is no doubt about the benefits of having an EMR. However, like paper records, health information cannot be easily shared with other health care providers.

An EHR, on the other hand, is an electronic record of health-related information on an individual that conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards and that can be created, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff across more than one health care organization. In other words, an EHR provides a broader view of the patient’s
health. It was designed to be shared, so that all health information can be collected from, and accessed by all stakeholders such as clinicians, nurses, laboratories, etc.

For an EHR, it should not matter where or who is providing health care to the patient, because the information goes with the patient and is freely but securely shared across health care providers. This is why an EHR is very different, and much more powerful, than an EMR.

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