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EHR vs. EMR: 5 Key Differences

When it comes to healthcare tools and types of software, Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are often confused. 

Why is this? They are very similar in their uses, applications, and purposes. Both EHR and EMR are digital medical records used by healthcare professionals. They are meant to replace paper healthcare records for efficiency, security, and convenience purposes. They provide valuable information and data about a patient’s health history – including diagnoses, treatments, prescriptions, and more.

However, EHR and EMR have slight differences when it comes to the type of data they deliver, the purposes of each type of data, and their uses in a healthcare setting. Read more below to learn about the 5 key differences between EHR vs. EMR.

1. Digital healthcare record vs. medical chart

While EHR is more closely related to a comprehensive healthcare record, EMR is closer to a “medical chart.”

In other words, EHR accumulates data about a patient’s health over time and across medical practices. It is more closely related to a “healthcare record” due to the vast amount of information and data it provides.

EMR is closer to a “medical chart” because it gives patient data from one physician’s office only. This means that it will only provide information on healthcare data – such as demographic information, diagnoses, and prescriptions – collected at that doctor’s office alone. 

2. Entire health history vs. clinical diagnosis and treatment 

It’s worth noting that EMR and EHR differ in terms of what kind of healthcare data they report.

EHR is focused on creating a holistic picture of a patient’s health history across their entire lifetime and the entire healthcare system. It will report a wide range of healthcare data and information about each person that varies in type and scope. For this reason, EHR can give healthcare practitioners a ton of information about a patient instantaneously. But the information is less specific to particular diagnoses and treatment plans. 

EMR is limited in scope. It is designed to report on internal clinical data – or information related to a particular practice – rather than a holistic healthcare report. For this reason EMR is used more for specific diagnoses and treatments rather than understanding a full picture of a patient’s health history.

3. Travel across providers vs. stay within one practice’s system

One main difference between EMR and EHR is the ability for the records to “travel” across different healthcare providers and even across country borders.

EHR are designed to travel across healthcare providers. So when a patient starts seeing a new physician or medical provider, that new provider will be able to access the patient’s healthcare data collected at other healthcare facilities. For instance, if a patient received test results from a lab 3 years prior to their current health visit, their current provider will be able to access those results from the external lab within seconds.

EMR, on the other hand, is designed to provide records on a patient’s history within that same clinical setting. It is not designed to be shared outside a single clinic. A physician will be able to access information and data about the patient’s past visits within that same medical office. However, they will not be able to easily access external medical data obtained at other facilities.

4. Decision-making tools vs. diagnosis and treatment alone

EMR and EHR are also different when it comes to tools they commonly include for healthcare professionals to utilize. 

EMR will give clinicians specific data about a patient’s diagnosis and treatment within their facility. For instance, it may include charts with previous prescriptions and lab test results related to the diagnosis they are being treated for at a particular clinic. 

EHR usually includes decision-making tools for healthcare providers based on data accumulated throughout a patient’s health history. In this way, it helps healthcare systems predict, develop, and measure treatment plans for patients moving forward. This decision-making tool is based on healthcare data and analytics related to their prior treatments at other healthcare facilities over time. 

5. Suitable for multi-specialty organizations vs. specialty clinics

Since EHR includes a variety of patient data across multiple healthcare specialties, it’s often better suited for large or multi-specialty organizations, such as hospitals. On the other hand, EMR is better suited for smaller clinical specialty offices where clinicians are focused more intently on specific diagnoses and treatment plans. 

For instance, a hospital may need to utilize EHR during an emergency to quickly see a patient’s medical history and decide upon a treatment plan for the emergency as quickly as possible. 

On the contrary, a small clinical office, such as a chiropractor, might use EMR to better understand a patient’s back pains and decide upon a treatment plan for an ongoing patient. They would have less use for EHR, which would give them an abundance of information unrelated to chiropractic care. 

Further Reading

Looking to learn more about valuable medical software options for your practice? You’re in the right place! In addition to EHR vs. EMR, learn about the following types of medical software and how much they cost:

You may also want to look into outsourcing your medical billing needs to cut costs and save time internally. We recommend looking into the following resources:

Looking to compare prices on medical software, such as EMR or EHR? We match you with the best providers in the industry that can deliver on your practice’s needs. Use our free comparison tool to start comparing the best quotes on medical software and save up to 30%.

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