What is the difference between EHR and EMR?

EMR and EHR. So much difference, just one letter can make! 

EMR and EHR have similar characteristics and applications. Since both the terms are widely synonymous, the subtle differences between them can be interesting to understand (and worth knowing, too!).

The first step in understanding the difference between EHR software and EMR software is that EMR stands for electronic medical records, and EHR stands for electronic health records.

What is EMR Software?

Simply put, an EMR is a digital version of a patient’s chart or health information. It contains the patient’s medical condition and treatment history from one medical practice. Usually, this record stays in the doctor’s office and does not get shared even when the patient switches doctors.

Benefits of EMR Software

EMRs have quite a few benefits over paper records: They allow doctors to:

  • Track patient data.
  • Identify patients who are due for checkups or screenings.
  • Get a quick look at the patient’s basic vitals, such as vaccination or blood pressure.
  • Monitor and improve quality of care within the medical practice

Alongside so many benefits, EMRs have one big disadvantage. The EMR system is designed for internal use by one practice, which means if a patient gets referred to a specialist, the EMR data (in digital form) cannot be shared with the specialist. The staff at the first practice will need to print out the patient’s medical details and mail it. This drawback makes the EMR system pretty much similar to paper records.
After the development of EMR software, the healthcare technology providers realized there was room for improvement. That’s when the EHR software entered the scene.

What is the EHR Software?
EHRs fulfill most of the purposes that EMRs do, and offer much more. EHRs have a sharper focus on the patient’s overall health, and not just medical questions as revealed by lab test results and diagnosis in EMR. Healthcare providers can easily share information using EHR software.

EHR systems thrive on interoperability, which allows the transfer of patient’s data in real-time between providers when a patient starts seeing a new provider. As a result, EHRs build up a broader picture of a patient’s health, collecting information from every provider involved in a patient’s healthcare.
A lot of EHR software provides patient portals that allow patients to access their medical history and track their treatment progress, giving them a more significant role throughout their entire wellness journey.

Benefits of EHR software
With advanced EHR software, your medical practice will be seamlessly integrated with other healthcare providers, helping to:

  • Improve the quality of care
  • Increase patient engagement
  • Improve medical outcomes
  • Increase efficiencies and cost savings

Is one better than the other?
The only way to determine the answer is through an in-depth evaluation of your needs and workflows.
If you consider semantics, EHR offers more as the data can be seamlessly shared between providers (it dwells on interoperability). On the other hand, EMR is a legacy system that converts a patient’s paper chart into a digital one.
The important thing when considering the software for your practice is to do due diligence and make sure the technology investment fulfills your needs. The crucial element, however, is having an intuitive system that eliminates the time-consuming process of handwritten records and paper-based charting.

EMR and EHR: There are similarities too!
While there are differences between the two (interoperability being the biggest differentiating factor), they offer several same features and functionalities.

  • Both contain patient medical records.
  • Both are available in on-premise and cloud-based options.
  • Both are capable of exchanging relevant data with other systems and providers seamlessly. (EHRs have an advantage over EMRs here)
  • Both offer tools to manage different aspects of medical practice, such as billing, reporting, scheduling, analytics, etc. (EHRs have an advantage over EMRs here)


Both EMR and EHR help make healthcare more efficient and less costly, so it’s difficult to choose a winner. However, to go beyond primary clinical data and focus on the overall health of each patient, providers need EHR software. And, when providers have the tools to make informed medical decisions, we all win.

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