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Among the many acronyms you'll encounter in the healthcare field, EMR and EHR are two of the most common. And while the phrases they stand for are straightforward and similar—electronic medical record and electronic health record—there are key differences that you should know about.


What is an EMR?

The term electronic medical record dates back to the first efforts to digitize paper records like vaccination logs, medical charts, and other printed documents. The shift to EMRs brought many benefits to both healthcare providers and patients. Hospitals and clinics reduced costs, saved time, and increased the amount of information that they could access at any point in the healthcare journey. Patients benefitted from the availability of more complete records, fewer errors, and the easy transfer of medical information from one clinician to another.


What is an EHR?

There has been a broad shift toward using the term electronic health record, which incorporates a wider variety of information beyond medical information. The term electronic medical record also places a stronger emphasis on compatibility and interoperability among healthcare providers. An EHR is more than a digital version of a patient's paper chart. While it does include medical information, it could also include billing information, or other healthcare provider notes ranging from a patient's demographic information to personal care preferences. An EHR is also patient-centered, not provider-centered, so information from a person's many different doctors and caretakers can be included. For example, in addition to hospitals, clinics, doctors, and nurses, an EHR could also be shared with pharmacies, emergency rooms, and school and workplace health providers. Perhaps most importantly, EHRs are increasingly accessible to patients themselves.


What is the difference between an EMR and an EHR?

The difference between these types of electronic records is the difference between medical and health information. Medical information relates to the science of medicine and the treatment of illness and injuries. An EMR typically describes a patient's medical information as maintained by an individual clinician or facility. Health information is more holistic, including the condition of one's body, mind, or spirit. An EHR includes information from (and is shared among) many different healthcare providers.



While some people may use EMR and EHR interchangeably, it's helpful to know the difference. A medical record is a specific type of information that is often part of a broader, more inclusive health record. Regardless of which term you use, however, the information in the record qualifies as protected health information (PHI) that's covered under HIPAA. If you're a healthcare provider implementing an EMR or EHR system, make sure your process includes HIPAA compliant email so you can safely share information with patients or healthcare partners electronically.


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