What’s In A Name-Getting it right: EMRs vs. EHRs
We often use the words EHRs and EMRs in the same context, without even thinking that the two could be different. After all, doesn’t ‘medical’ in EMR convey the same meaning as ‘health’ in EHR? But a difference does exist between the two. In theory, and by definition, the difference should play into any provider’s clinical software selection. The confusion between the two words has further been increased due to marketing messages and technical terminology, which have clouded the provider’s understanding of the two software definitions.
The National Alliance for Health Information Technology (NAHIT) recently established definitions for electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic health records (EHR).
According to NAHIT, and EMR is defined as the electronic record of health-related information on an individual that is created, gathered, managed, and consulted by licensed clinicians and staff from a single organization who are involved in the individual’s health and care. In simpler words, an EMR is a legal record maintained and preserved by the clinic or hospital. EMRs are characterised by controlled medical vocabulary, order entry, computerized provider order entry, pharmacy and clinical documentation applications. The data in the EMR is owned by the hospital/clinic and records every dose of medicine given to the patient, every procedure carried out on the patient and what happened to the patient during his/her visit to the hospital/clinic.
On the other hand, an EHR is defined as the aggregate electronic record of health-related information on an individual that is created and gathered cumulatively across more than one health care organization and is managed and consulted by licensed clinicians and staff involved in the individual’s health and care. In layman’s language, an EMR is nothing but a collection of data of all the hospitals a patient has visited, all the tests he/she has undertaken and all the medicines prescribed to the patient. The EHR connects the various clinical systems and providers by combining important data.
Put simply, an EMR is a record maintained by the hospital/clinic and an EHR is nothing but a collection of all EMRs put together in simple language from different hospitals visited by a patient. EMRs are used to create EHRs which are further used to update EMRs. An EHR provides clinical decision support and alerts providers to health maintenance requirements by delving into the patient’s medical history.
An EMR is more useful for a specialist. If your responsibility is taking care of one unique problem – perhaps an orthopaedist setting a bone – then a stand-alone EMR may well be sufficient. Certain specialists may not need information about patient history as much as they need specialty-specific workflows and templates.
It is important to note that EHRs can be established only if the EMRs of the various hospitals have evolved to a level that can create and support a robust exchange of information between stakeholders within a community or region. It will be difficult to establish effective EHRs until we have established clinical information transaction standards that can be easily adopted by the different EMR application architectures now available.
The idea of an EHR has been around since about the late 1960s. Due to meaningful use requirements, the use of EHRs is becoming more widespread throughout the health care industry. EHRs and EMRs are used interchangeably by many people in the healthcare industry, our government, and the press. However, these terms describe completely different concepts, both of which are crucial to the success of local, regional, and national goals to improve patient safety, improve the quality and efficiency of patient care, and reduce healthcare delivery costs. EHRs are reliant on EMRs being in place, and EMRs will never reach their full potential without interoperable EHRs in place. It’s important to understand the differences, and to reduce confusion in the market, but the bottom line is that electronic records represent a notable improvement over paper medical records because they not only enable the convenient, accurate, and comprehensive capture of a patient’s history, but they also facilitate the rapid searching, recall, and electronic sharing of that history with other providers and medical applications, improving patient care, decrease in overall costs and improvements in overall patient outcomes. Electronic records are here to revolutionize healthcare as we know it, and the sooner we adopt them, the better it is for us.