What is the difference between EHR and EMR?

They may sound similar, but they are not interchangeable

What is the difference between EHR and EMR? EMR and EHR are two terms that are being used with increasing frequency as health care provides seek to adopt new technologies, streamline operations, deliver better patient care, and reduce the risk of data breaches. But while these two terms may seem to be similar, there can be major differences to be aware of.

It is important to know the differences between EMR and EHR. EMR and EHR have similar characteristics and applications. Since both the terms are widely synonymous, the subtle differences between them can be difficult to understand, but worth knowing.

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The first step in understanding the difference between EHR software and EMR software is understanding that EMR stands for electronic medical records and EHR stands for electronic health records. If you are wondering what is the difference between EHR and EMR, this blog will help.

What is EMR software?
What is EMR? Simply put, an electronic medical record 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.

EHR and EMR differences: The benefits of EMR software
Do you know what is EMR? 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 heart rate or blood pressure.
  • Monitor and improve quality of care within the medical practice

Although there are many benefits, EMRs have one big disadvantage. The EMR system is designed for internal use by one practice. That means if a patient gets referred to a specialist, the EMR data (which are in digital form) cannot be shared with the new specialist. The staff at the first practice will need to print out the patient’s medical details and mail it — yes, the old-fashioned way. This drawback makes the EMR system pretty much similar to paper records.

Although the development of EMR software paved the way for enhanced office operations, healthcare technology providers soon realized there was room for improvement — and that is when the EHR software entered the scene.

EHR vs. EMR: What is EHR software?
Electronic health records fulfill most of the same purposes that EMRs do, although they offer enhanced functionality and the ability to lead offices and health care centers into new, more secure, better connected digital environments. 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 a patient’s data in real-time between providers — when, for example, 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.

The difference between EHR and EMR: What are the benefits of EHR software?
The first step to knowing the benefits of EHR software is knowing the difference between EMR and EHR. As with many things that have been digitized, electronic health records are part of the radical transformation of our lives by digital technology. That this tech has made its way into health care makes sense, although in some areas, EHRs have been surprisingly slow to catch on. EHRs allow health care providers to enjoy modern, seamless connectivity that saves time, cuts down on paperwork, reduces the chance of data theft, and provides enhanced care to the patient. Are you weighing EHR vs. EMR? EHRs can improve care by:

  • Reducing medical errors and improving record accuracy
  • Making health care information more readily available
  • Reducing duplication and the chances that records will be lost
  • Reducing delays in treatment
  • Improving patient care
  • Increasing patient participation
  • Improving care coordination
  • Improving diagnostics and patient outcomes
  • Enhancing practice inefficiencies, including cost savings

EHR and EMR differences: What documents are usually included in an EHR?
Are you still wondering about EMR or EHR? Electronic health records can contain a wide variety of documents, data, and information, including:

  • Administrative and billing data
  • Information about the patient, including age, address, relatives, any living will or health directives, next of kin notifications, and emergency contact information
  • Progress notes
  • Vital signs and their history
  • Medical history, including procedures, illnesses, surgeries, and treatments
  • Diagnoses
  • Medications
  • Immunization and vaccination dates
  • Allergy information
  • Radiology images and reports
  • Lab and test results

Many are packed with features that help improve the quality of care and patient experiences, including:

  • The ability to track care such as prescriptions, and measure outcomes such as decreased blood pressure
  • The ability to set trigger warnings and reminders
  • The ability to easily and securely share the health records with other provides, whether they are across town or around the world

How do I select an EHR vendor?
Once you know the difference between EMR and EHR, selecting an EHR vendor is a critical step for many health care providers. In addition to representing a notable line-item expense, your relationship with your EHR vendor should be long term — since there can be a technical onboarding process and learning curve, most practices will not want to switch EHR providers too frequently.

Vendor assessment: The first step toward selecting an EMR or EHR vendor is collecting information from several providers and narrowing the field. This may seem like a huge challenge as there is a large and growing number of EHR vendors, although it is important to note that not all are created equally, have similar features, have similar pricing, or offer the same functionality. Start by determining what you need from your EHR and then locating the providers that have that functionality in their systems.

Some top functions you may want from your EHR include:

  • Speech recognition
  • The ability to set alerts
  • A clear, user-friendly dashboard that includes financial information
  • Advanced clinical decision support
  • Medical decision support
  • Electronic patient information and education
  • EHR alerts that can be set and customized in just a few clicks
  • A comprehensive customer relations management tool
  • A patient-provider communication tool that is easy to use

Other EMR or EHR tools may include features that enhance office performance, patient engagement, care quality, and clinical and financial data metrics include:

  • MIPS and MACRA performance tracking
  • Revenue cycle management
  • Medical decision support

When you know more about the features and functionality you want, then it is time to start comparing providers. You may ask colleagues about their EHR experiences, contact any professional groups you are a part of, and research vendors using online comparison sites and their own websites.

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Once you know the EHR and EMR differences, you may wish to design and then issue a request for information (RFI) to solicit feedback about vendors, their products and services, and their cost. Make sure to enquire about their ongoing support, health information exchange, estimated total cost of ownership, support features, and availability for demonstrations.

When you have enough information about the different vendors and understand EHR vs. EMR, it is time to compare them. You can create an evaluation matrix to rate basic functionalities and a scorecard to compare features and costs. As with any large purchase, choose several vendors for a test drive to see how they are to interact with and how their systems are in action. Also, make sure to contact references by asking for a list of customers who you can talk to about their experiences.

Once, you’ve done all of this, it’s time to make a final decision, select a vendor, and sign a contract.

So, the big question: EMR or EHR? What is the difference between EHR and EMR? Knowing the difference between an EMR and an EHR is critical. Make sure you chose the right vendor for your practice and your goals — they can make or break your entire operation!

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