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What is the difference between an Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR)? 

Basics Digital Health DoseSpot integration EHR EHR software Electronic Health Record Electronic Medical Record EMR healthtech

Understanding the difference

Electronic health records and electronic medical records tend to be used interchangeably, with many assuming that the two are the same. Although both EMRs and EHRs involve the digital record-keeping of essential medical information, understanding the differences is important when determining which software best suits your healthcare organization’s needs.  

Part of the initial confusion between the two began when the U.S. mandated the transition to electronic records, and news publications began using the terms interchangeably. Both platforms serve the need for electronic records, but where an EMR specializes in treatment and diagnosis in a specific location or clinic, an EHR is meant to be a record of total health across providers. 

Defining the ONE-word difference 

Medical and health, what is the difference?  

The word “medical” refers to the treatment of illness and injuries. Similarly, EMRs are used primarily by clinicians for record keeping of treatments and diagnoses. The system deals with a particular entity, such as a singular clinic. In comparison, “health” covers more territory, including mind, body, and spirit. Similarly, EHRs involve the full scope of a patient’s medical journey, expanding from a singular practice to different providers that assist a patient. This is where the interoperability challenge comes into play. 

What is an Electronic Medical Record (EMR)? 

An EMR holds medical information from a singular practice, including medical history, diagnoses, and treatment. An EMR is highly advantageous, but this critical information does not have a simple means of transferring outside the singular practice. You can think of an EMR as being the digital replacement of a single practice’s paper chart. 

EMRs are used to store patient-specific information and are not accessible to the patient. They were developed before EHRs to more accurately keep patient details and avoid human error.  But they lack interoperability, as it does not communicate with other systems. However, EMRs are typically more secure than an EHR since information is kept in one location and cannot be accessed by patients, making it significantly more complex for those looking to steal information. 

The advantages of an EMR: 

What is an Electronic Health Record (EHR)? 

An EHR does all the above and more. As stated previously, the “health” in EHR encompasses the patient’s complete health journey. An EHR expands from an EMR and goes beyond standard clinical data obtained from a singular provider’s office.  

EHRs give a more complete story of the patient’s medical history providing a comprehensive roadmap of essential health information. An EHR is built to be more accessible to other healthcare providers involved in a patient’s care. An EHR moves with the patient – to a primary care provider, the specialist, the hospital, the dentist, and more. This interoperability differentiates an EHR from an EMR and appeals to larger healthcare organizations, hospitals, and providers whose patients see a variety of healthcare professionals. This primary benefit is also what makes it a slightly less secure option. An EHR is considered a much more appealing target for adversaries looking to steal information as it contains the entire patient care journey from various practices. 

The advantages of an EHR: 

Which system is right for your healthcare organization? 

Larger healthcare organizations and hospital systems typically use an EHR to provide a comprehensive patient care summary across multiple providers. However, they might also use an EMR to create patient-specific health plans and track data over time.  

Primary care providers, and individual practices, use EMRs more frequently than larger organizations. Although it limits the sharing capabilities, many smaller practices find more value in utilizing patient-specific information and records rather than interoperability. 

EMRs and EHRs are both essential to today’s healthcare world. With laws and regulations requiring electronic records systems, it is vital that your healthcare organization is using a system that meets not only your needs but also federal and state regulations. 

It is also important to understand what additional software can be integrated into these systems. Oftentimes, especially with EMRs, you will want to customize certain features or add additional functionality through APIs or embedded links. Look for flexibility in the software so it can continue to grow with you and evolve as new technology continues to develop. Learn more about DoseSpot’s services and integrations.