Electronic health records (EHR) systems are now ubiquitous.
EHR Intelligence reports that in 2018, 98% of hospitals had an EHR system or planned to install one—up from 73% a decade before. And with the new 21st Century Cures Act, healthcare providers have even more reason to build systems to effectively and securely manage their patient health data. These days, very few healthcare providers don’t have some sort of EHR technology.
So what are electronic health records, and are they different from the similar-sounding electronic medical records (EMRs)?
Yes, while they sound like synonyms and are often used interchangeably, EMRs are distinct from EHRs. This article explains the difference between the two.
EMRs are essentially digital versions of traditional patient medical charts. It includes all the information that a healthcare provider—physician, nurse practitioner, specialist, dentist, surgeon, or clinic—needs to provide care.
EMRs include information like upcoming appointments, payment information, medical history, diagnoses, test results, treatments, lab results, and demographic information.
EMRs are specific to an organization or clinic. They’re typically not built to be shared with other healthcare providers. Indeed, when they need to be shared with others, they often are printed and mailed.
EMRs are often not easily accessible to patients, either. EMRs can be kept in any database, but clinics often purchase specific EMR software systems to help them manage all their records while staying compliant with relevant legislation and regulations for health data.
EHRs are also digital records pertaining to a patient’s medical information, but they have a larger scope. Rather than including information from just one healthcare provider, they include all the information about a patient’s health data from all of their providers.
The idea is that any authorized user—nurse, physician, and so on—can access that information to get a more complete medical history. The information that’s held in EHRs is often very similar to the information in an EMR: medical history, diagnoses, test results, treatments, lab results, and so on. The difference is just that EHRs are more inclusive and would include data from more than one provider.
EHRs are often held in EHR software platforms that healthcare providers implement. These focus on interoperability so that data on a patient is shared among different providers. These EHR systems also often include patient portals where individuals can access their own data and track their treatment progress.
Some EHR software platforms also include features that help healthcare providers manage their practice—billing features, appointment scheduling features, and so on.
EMRs and EHRs are quite similar.
They contain the same types of data and are typically only accessible to authorized healthcare providers and their staff. The collection and management of both are heavily regulated, and to share EMRs and EHRs beyond authorized individuals, patients need to give their explicit consent.
But they also have some important differences:
Healthcare providers are moving towards making health data more easily accessible. The trend is that healthcare providers are increasingly using EHR software that connects to others so that a patient’s data can be aggregated across all their providers.
Marble is helping to expand access even more.
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