Oftentimes, the terms Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) are interchanged. To the uninitiated, they may even be synonymous. In reality, although at first glance only one word is different between them, the change is much more significant. Moreover, they also shouldn’t be confused with a Personal Health Record (PHR).
While they’re not ideally interchangeable, it’s important to note one key advantage for both EMRs and EHRs: their security. These records are stored on secure online databases where they’re out of reach from unauthorized individuals. Thus, both highly minimize the risks of having patients’ sensitive information at the risks of misplacement, tampering, and theft. Moreover, this allows them to be accessible to multiple healthcare providers anytime and anywhere—making them one of the most critical life-saving tools in case of emergencies.
Nevertheless, they still have their differences. Here’s a closer look:
Electronic Health Record
Generally speaking, an EHR provides a wider perspective of the patient’s care. This means that in addition to tracking any diseases they may have, the records also give medical professionals a view of their patients' overall health and wellness. Unlike EMRs, a team of health care providers can easily share Electronic Health Records between them. This includes the patient’s clinicians, other specialists, and laboratory staff. As a result, medical practitioners gain access to accurate data updated in real time. Therefore, it's safe to say that EHR provides more transparency and a form of communication between all parties involved, allowing them to treat their patients appropriately, regardless of the patient's current location or current modality of care required. This advantage makes EHRs most suitable for multi-location and multi-specialty hospital systems and organizations.
In some countries, citizens are even given incentives in order to standardize EHRs given that with access to them, medical professionals can:
- Write more informed prescriptions since the EHR automatically alerts them of conflicting prescriptions.
- Review their patients’ backgrounds before further consultation and diagnoses.
- Learn about life-threatening allergies when caring for individuals who are unconscious in emergency situations.
- Lower the risks of referring to inaccurate information
Electronic Medical Record
On the flipside, an Electronic Medical Record has a narrower scope compared to an EHR. As an overview, it's important to note that clinicians keep their own set of EMRs. They mainly use these as references for their patients' diagnoses prescriptions, symptoms, and other details over time. Simply put, these are digital versions of their paper charts. Moreover, EMRs serve as a tool for tracking a patient's data and as a reference for identifying their needs. These include, but aren't limited to the vaccinations they're due to receive and scheduled checkups.
Keep in mind that choosing the right EMR app for you requires careful consideration. More often than not, your software should:
- Have a secure database
- Comply with the data privacy laws in your area
- Allow you to correctly classify and handle data appropriately
Personal Health Record
At this point, it’s important to remember that patients may also have their own PHRs. Contrary to EHRs and EMRs, patients use PHRs to specifically monitor and record their own health conditions by themselves. This allows them to track their health information without the need to consult their healthcare providers all the time. As a result, individuals then gain more motivation to take better care of themselves overall with minimal to no supervision.
Furthermore, patients with their own PHRs can more easily present their complete and well-documented medical histories to new medical professionals they visit. In most scenarios, a few details patients can include are:
- Blood pressure readings regularly taken at home
- Scheduled exercise sessions and dietary restrictions
- Health goals and progress reports
- Family medical history
- Allergies or chronic diseases
- Previous and current prescriptions, medications and dosing, and vaccinations
- Hospitalizations, surgeries, and other procedures
In some cases, patients who have privacy concerns may prefer that their health care providers use EMRs. However, consulting multiple specialists increases the risks of having inconsistencies between the data they have on any given patient—thus making EHRs more beneficial. This is also true when they’re transitioning between nursing modalities or healthcare facilities. However, it’s worth nothing that while they usually contain an abundance of information, EHRs, more often than not, need to collect them from EMRs. Nonetheless, having these electronic records can significantly save both parties time and resources. Unlike paper-based records, they allow patients, their primary caregivers, and any authorized medical professional to take a closer look at their previous consultations, care plans, and treatments among other things.
According to the American Health Association (AHA), having health information electronically recorded is a logical extension of the current common lifestyles for most individuals. If anything, its standardized implementation can provide patients with the confidence that their health care decisions are made from well-informed decisions.
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