What’s the Difference between EMR and EHR?

Due in part to government incentives, many small medical practices are switching from storing paper records to keeping electronic copies of their patients’ medical records in a computer system. These systems are called Electronic Medical Records (EMR) or Electronic Health Records (EHR). Many people use the terms interchangeably, but historically there is a significant difference between the two.

WHAT IS AN EMR?

EMRs have been in use for a long time, since practices first started switching to computerized records back in the 1980s. EMRs can be either proprietary or open source. Some large health care providers had EMRs created specifically for them.

EMRs are basically an electronic version of the familiar paper chart that allows physicians to keep track of data over the long term. An EMR can compare important data like blood pressure and blood sugar levels. They also allow the practitioner to keep track of vaccination dates and when to alert patients to schedule an appointment for a checkup. EMRs can help the practitioner monitor and improve the quality of care at the practice.

EMRs offer many benefits to a practice but they have one major drawback, stemming from their history before the Internet became widely available. They are standalone systems, and each office may have its own different and incompatible EMR. A clinician may even have to print out the data and send it to another office by mail or fax.

WHAT IS AN EHR?

An EHR has all of the same functions of an EMR, but the focus is on the entire health of the patient.  EHRs are designed to make it easy for practices and laboratories to share information. It doesn’t matter if the patient is located across the street or across the country.  For example, say a patient needs to see a specialist, who orders a specific test. Here’s what will happen if all the players are equipped with compatible EHRs.

  1. The patient sees his general practitioner, who recommends they see a specialist.
  2. The patient makes an appointment at the specialist. The patient’s records will be available to the specialist immediately, without requesting them from the patient’s general practitioner.
  3. The specialist examines the patient and takes a sample, which is sent to a lab.
  4. The lab receives the sample and carries out the test. The lab test results are integration into the patient’s relevant health records.
  5. The specialist and the general practitioner both have immediate access to the test results. If the EHR is equipped with a patient portal, the patient also has immediate access to their test results through a special web site, even when their doctor’s office is closed.

 

While an EMR offers individual practices advantages over the traditional paper chart, the patient receives the most benefit when heath care providers share information quickly and easily.  EHRs are designed to be accessed by all people involved in the patient’s care—including the patients themselves.  Furthermore,  the requirement to electronically share patient health information is an explicit expectation in the Stage 1 definition of “meaningful use” of EHRs.

ZH Healthcare’s ZH OpenEMR is a fully certified for meaningful use and integrated EHR.  The solution integrates patient data, lab orders and results, prescription history, and through the use of health information standards and the ZH Patient Portal can share pertinent health information with patients and other care providers.  Learn more here on how your practice can benefit by implementing ZH Healthcare’s certified, secure, and highly customizable EHR.

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