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Electronic Medical Records vs Electronic Health Records: What’s the Difference?

Higher Education Articles August 29, 2013

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Electronic Health Records (EHR) are very similar, and their names sound almost identical. However, there are key differences between these two types of electronic records, and these differences have a direct correlation to how Electronic Medical Records and Electronic Health Records are used.

Electronic Medical Records are used primarily by clinicians for diagnosing or treating various illnesses. These records are an electronic version of the paper records which were once commonly used by these healthcare providers. Electronic Medical Records are used by clinicians for the following purposes:

•To track patient data over a certain time frame
•To determine when a patient needs a preventative screening or a checkup
•To track and record things like blood pressure readings or vaccinations
•For the monitoring and improvement of the quality of care within a particular clinic or practice

The advantage of Electronic Medical Records over paper records is that they are easier to organize than their paper counterparts. The difference between Electronic Medical Records Electronic Health Records is that Electronic Medical Records tend to stay within a specific clinic while Electronic Health Records may be accessed by healthcare providers from various facilities. Electronic Medical Records may be sent from the clinic where they were created to another clinic, but this can be a relatively cumbersome process.

Electronic Health Records fill all the same functions as Electronic Medical Records. However, Electronic Health Records go beyond the role of Electronic Medical Records. Electronic Health Records take a broader view of a patient. They include data from multiple clinics, hospitals, and healthcare providers. These records are designed to travel from healthcare provider to healthcare provider, and their objective is to provide information to all of the healthcare providers who are involved with a patient. Using Electronic Health Records, healthcare providers are able to make better decisions regarding patient care. In addition, because these records follow a patient throughout their life, they allow the patient a convenient way to track his or her own treatment history.

This information can be used by all the involved parties to make responsible, well informed medical choices. Although Electronic Medical Records and Electronic Health Records both serve useful purposes, there is greater potential provided by Electronic Health Records. There are several meaningful uses of Electronic Health Records, but the central advantage of these types of records is that they allow healthcare providers to give patients better care that is truly customized to their needs and their medical history. With Electronic Health Records, patient care becomes more coordinated, and these records provide the following advantages and many others:

•Electronic Health Records notify a new healthcare provider or an emergency care provider about potential allergies that a patient may have. This can have a potential life saving effect that is particularly useful if the patient is unconscious.
•Patients can review their own Electronic Health Records. By tracking their own records, a patient may be able to note progress in significant ways that encourage him or her to continue with a certain type of medication or lifestyle change.
•Test results are usually recorded immediately in the Electronic Health Record, and this prevents a healthcare provider from having to run duplicate tests.
•These records allow a patient to have a seamless transition from one medical facility to another one.

The information on a patient’s Electronic Medical Record may be very similar to the information on a patient’s Electronic Health Record. However, this information can be assessed by different groups of people and used in different ways. The critical difference in these two types of records is the potential offered by Electronic Health Records. These records can motivate a patient to make better lifestyle choices, and they can enable that patient’s healthcare providers to provide a higher quality of care that is more closely attuned to the patient’s medical history and medical needs.

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