The use of electronic health records (EHR software) and electronic medical records (EMR software) has grown increasingly popular over the years as healthcare organizations are doing everything they can to provide greater quality care and increase revenue in the process. Many people view the EHR vs EMR software comparison as being one and the same, but there are important differences worth knowing.
Electronic medical records have been around longer and are focused on the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions carried out by a single provider. Meanwhile, electronic health records do many of the same things while being specifically designed to exchange information with other providers.
What Are Electronic Medical Records?
Electronic medical records are the digital equivalent of old-fashioned paper medical records. They were developed due to the large and growing amount of paper records (many organizations dedicated entire rooms or storage facilities for the sole purpose of keeping files) as well as the inaccuracies involved with physical documentation. Storing patient information electronically eliminates the worry of any misplacement, theft, damage or tampering of sensitive data.
Manually entering and re-entering data is prone to a variety of concerns. Documentation can take up a lot of time and effort for physicians, giving them less time to focus on patient interaction. EMR software helps keep patient information current and accurate while allowing physicians to spend less time recording. It eliminates errors caused by handwriting and legibility issues altogether.
EMRs allow doctors to track data of individual patients associated with their practice. Some major applications of EMRs include identifying which patients are due for preventive screenings, vaccinations or checkups. They are a useful tool for tracking quality of care — making them useful business intelligence tools — but they don’t easily allow information to be transferred to other health care organizations.
There are a variety of benefits and advantages that come with using an EMR as opposed to paper medical records:
- More effective data tracking
- Improved patient care
- Security of sensitive data
- Reminders for patient screenings and checkups
What Are Electronic Health Records?
Not long after the development of electronic medical records, providers realized there was room for improvements. Enter EHR software. Electronic health records fulfill many of the same purposes as EMRs in addition to much more. EHRs tend to have a much stronger focus on the individual patient, collecting information from multiple clinicians. Healthcare providers are able to easily share information with one another using this type of software.
EHR systems are designed to promote interoperability, which allows the transfer of real-time data between healthcare organizations when a patient starts seeing a new provider. As a result, EHRs build up a much broader picture of a patient’s overall health, collecting information from every clinician involved in a patient’s treatment, whereas EMRs held by independent providers often focus on particular medical conditions. In the last 10–20 years, many EHRs have started to provide patient portals which allow patients to access their medical history and track their treatment progress, giving them a greater role throughout their entire care process.
Furthermore, health facilities are able to benefit financially with the EHR incentive program. Organizations can earn upwards of tens of thousands of dollars simply for implementing these systems and meeting meaningful use standards. Be aware, however, that the penalties for not meeting these qualifications can be equally as steep, if not more so.
EHR software helps your organization in a variety of ways, providing numerous benefits which are listed below.
- Exchange of updated information in real time
- Access to decision-making tools
- Complete medical history of each patient
- Improve population health
The Basic Difference Between EMR and EHR
The main thing to understand about how these two types of systems differ is that EMR software provides digital patient charts for a single practice, whereas EHR software allows physicians to easily share records with other healthcare providers regardless of location. An easy way to remember which is which is by thinking about the terms “medical” and “health.” In other words, an EMR is a narrower view of a patient’s medical history while and EHR provides a more elaborate report of a patient’s overall health.
Think of an EHR as an EMR, but just a little beefier; they typically have more tools and features to provide a broader snapshot of a patient’s medical history as opposed to EMRs which are often more limited. EHR solutions typically provide a broader snapshot of a patient’s medical history than that of an EMR.
EMR software allows you to enter information about a patient’s medical care, including test results and prescription medications. You can use this kind of software to issue repeat prescriptions, schedule appointments and bill patients. EHR software also allows e-prescribing, additionally providing communication features which allow healthcare providers from different organizations to collaborate on patient care.
An important thing worth noting is that industry experts have started to use EMR and EHR interchangeably. Many systems considered EMRs will offer a number of the same features and integration capabilities as an EHR would. Below are a few more ways in which EHR and EMR software differ.
- EMRs are not designed to be shared outside of an individual clinic
- EHR systems allow a patient’s medical information to travel with them to different specialists, labs, imaging facilities, pharmacies and more.
- EHRs provide users with the entirety of a patient’s medical history, regardless of location and across state lines.
Benefits of Both EHR and EMR
While these two types of software have their differences, there are a number of benefits shared by each. Both are expected to make healthcare both more efficient and less costly. Here are some of the most common benefits in regards to both EHR software as well as EMR.
- Both EHR and EMR help reduce the number of medical errors and improve healthcare by keeping information accurate and up-to-date.
- Patient charts and documents are much more clear as a result of reporting electronically.
- Duplicate testing can be reduced to save both patients as well as providers time and money.
- Both promote more patient participation, which in turn encourages healthier lifestyles and medical knowledge.
- More complete and updated patient information can help lead to more accurate diagnoses and treatment.
Should You Use an EHR or EMR?
The medical software selection process, much like any other software, is often a confusing and time-consuming process. With so many different options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to narrow down your search. Getting input from staff who will be using the software is a great way to know which tools and features you’ll want as well as which ones aren’t desired. It’s also important to consider the unique wants and needs of the healthcare clinic you run.
If your healthcare organization requires the need to regularly share information with other health care providers, then using a certified EHR technology is an excellent decision. For instance, if your health care practice regularly refers patients for tests or consultations with specialists outside of your practice, then it’s highly beneficial for each patient to have an electronic health record.
On the flip-side, if your practice is self-contained and focused on treating a particular medical condition, then an EMR system may be a simple and adequate addition to the suite of business intelligence tools you use to run your healthcare business.
Remember, many industry experts use the two terms interchangeably today, so while EHR and EMR do differ, the most important thing is to compare a variety of solutions to find one that properly suits your health facility.