EMR vs. EHR: Which One Is Right for Your Practice?

EMRs and EHRs help you run your practice efficiently, but there is a big difference that can be vital to a patient’s health. Make sure you are selecting the right one for your practice.

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The terms EHR and EMR tend to be used interchangeably, but there are some key differences between the two. Understanding these differences can help you select the correct one for your practice.

Electronic medical records were initially implemented to help medical doctors with billing health insurance companies. Technology has since expanded the functionality to include integrations that help with appointment setting, medical documentation, patient record management, document control, and document retention.

As the features of electronic medical record software expanded, it became apparent that digital health records could quickly be shared with other medical professionals. Electronic medical record software that is interoperable is known as Electronic Health Record (EHR) software.

What is an EHR?

An Electronic Health Record (EHR) contains a patient’s records from all their doctors. EHRs provide a long-term view of the patient’s health to doctors. An EHR includes the patient demographics, test results, medical history, medications, and the history of present illness.

A Certified EHR meets the Meaningful Use standards set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Compliance with these standards allows practices to be eligible for incentive programs like the Promoting Interoperability Program. This program encourages EHR technology to provide for the electronic exchange of health information in a way that will improve the quality of care.

EHR systems benefit the patient by allowing multiple doctors access to the patient’s records. This can help providers avoid prescribing medications that will interact with current ones. They can make more informed decisions with a more complete idea of the patient’s health.

What is an EMR?

An EMR is an Electronic Medical Record. This is a digital version of a patient’s medical chart. The EMR contains the patient’s medical treatment, history, insurance, and billing records from that single practice.

The EMR software also provides support to the medical practice that improves the workflow. EMR software focuses on clinical applications that allow for medical abbreviations and note-taking during visits. It provides billing and coding support as well.

The EMR does not get shared with other doctors. When a patient switches doctors, the EMR does not follow the patient. It stays within the practice. If a patient wants information shared with another doctor, they must request their previous practice to send a copy to the other physician.

EHR vs. EMR: What’s the difference?

EHRs and EMRs both allow medical practices to operate more efficiently by digitizing the medical records for better document control. The main difference is that EMRs do not integrate their data and share it with other practices.

Data tracking

EHRs allow doctors to access much more patient data. In the past, your medical chart was limited to what was manually written within the practice. When working with an EMR, doctors are limited to the information that a patient has given you on visits to your clinic.

EHRs include metadata regarding IP addresses, GPS locations, and the identity of everyone who views your file. It also includes revisions, and deleted versions. When using an EHR, providers can see if the patient has had any recent emergency room visits or another relevant diagnosis to consider.

Patient identification

Both an EMR and an EHR will include patient identification and health data. This will include the patient’s date of birth, gender, and contact information. In addition to basic demographics, patient identification records in EMRs and EHRs include administrative and billing data, allowing providers to bill the health insurance companies.

Monitor care

All EMRs and EHRs include the ability to track vital signs, monitor lab results, record progress notes, access medical histories, and document diagnoses. They include the list of medications that patients have taken as well as immunization records.

One area where EHRs stand out is the ability to include health data related to lifestyle. For example, patients with blood glucose monitors may be able to upload information from that device into an EHR. Having fitness and health information transferred from a wearable device allows doctors to monitor patients remotely. It gives doctors more detailed information on the patient.

Improve workflow

EHRs and EMRs both have features that integrate with billing and appointment scheduling systems. The integrated scheduling systems of EMRs and EHRs link appointments directly to progress notes and automate the coding for billing purposes. This means your staff can spend less time on paperwork and focus on running the practice.

Benefits of using an EHR

EHRs enhance the patient experience from end to end. From scheduling a patient visit to ensuring that there aren’t any drug interactions with current medications, EHRs increase the quality by giving providers a more complete view of the patient’s overall health.

  • Avoid contraindications: Information gathered by primary care providers can be passed along to specialists or emergency care providers. This could prevent a life-threatening drug interaction or allergic reaction.
  • Increase patient access: Patients can log into their own records and view their lab results so they are up-to-date on their own health status. They can also schedule visits and update their billing information.
  • Faster access to lab results: Providers can access lab results immediately and make faster decisions for patients. When patients are referred to a specialist, they do not need to run duplicate tests because they have access to the lab results.
  • Share care instructions: Following a hospital stay, the clinician’s discharge and care instructions can be shared with the primary care providers and physical therapists. This makes the transition smooth.
  • Reduce operational costs: EHRs reduce the paperwork involved in scheduling and billing. This increases the efficiency of the staff.
  • Analyze patient data: EHRs can analyze which patients need to come in for check-ups and routine screenings. Physicians can notify patients who are due for their regular screenings and immunizations.
  • Electronic prescriptions: Save time and phone calls for staff by using electronic prescribing features.
  • Eligible for government incentives: Providers are encouraged to adopt, implement, and upgrade to demonstrate Meaningful Use of Certified Electronic Health Records. This will help them avoid penalties on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

Benefits of using an EMR

EMRs make sense for practices that don’t require much interaction with other clinicians. They are ideal for smaller practices that are more self-contained. EMRs tend to be less expensive than EHRs.

EMRs allow clinicians to track data, identify patients due for checkups, schedule appointments, and bill their patients. An EMR reduces errors on medical records and provides quicker assessment and care from medical professionals. It also allows patients to access their own records.

  • Reduce operational costs: EMRs reduce paperwork and office supply expenses. The EMR also improves efficiency as documentation is faster and billing takes less time.
  • Offer patient access: A patient portal allows patients to access their information and update important billing information.
  • Gather and analyze data: The information collected with an EMR can identify which patients are not getting their screenings and regular check-ups.
  • Improve documentation and coding: EMRs feature dictation functionality and customizable chart templates for faster documentation. They also integrate with billing software to ensure that the coding is accurate when sent to the health insurance company.
  • Save money: An EMR is typically less expensive than an EHR because it has fewer technological functions.

Which is right for your practice?

Your practice is unique. The best software for you will be determined by your patient population and type of practice. For large health care organizations that regularly interact and share information with other health care providers, a certified EHR technology is a necessity. A certified EHR is also recommended if many of your patients rely on Medicare or Medicaid to ensure reimbursement.

If your practice is relatively self-contained and focused on treating a specific medical condition, an EMR may be the simple solution you need. The technology of an EMR may meet your operational needs at a reasonable price.

The trend is definitely toward becoming more interoperable and adopting certified EHR software. As of 2017, more than 80% of doctors had adopted certified EHR systems that meet the requirements set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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