Since 2004 we’ve heard the two terms ‘EMR’ and ‘EHR’ and have used them interchangeably

Is this correct? Do they mean the same thing?

Absolutely not.

There has been a misconception for years concerning this issue. It was not until recently, when the government announced that it is an EHR that medical providers must purchase.

Now what’s the difference?

An Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is a system that enables physicians’ to have electronic patient charts. This system is solely for the physician, therefore, the legal record of a patient encounter is owned by the physician. The EMR is not interactive, and all patient information is stored within the physician’s computer.

An Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a system that focuses on the word ‘Health,’ which implies the scope of a patient’s well-being. The most important term that you must associate with an EHR is interconnectivity. An EHR has the ability to transfer data to other EHRs, hospitals, labs. It is about the patient receiving the best care and is not dependent on the physical location of the patient.

For example: A man named Brian resides in Florida and is on vacation in Colorado. Brian has a bad fall while skiing. He broke arm and the impact of him falling has caused him to become unconscious. Brian is rushed to the ER, however, the physician cannot provide medication yet because the physician is unsure if Brian has specific allergies.

An EHR is the system that is able to transfer Brian’s records to the ER in Colorado. An EMR cannot.

With the HITECH Act, the government has announced that physicians will receive financial incentives if they choose to implement and meaningfully use an EHR by 2014. If physicians choose NOT to conform, they will receive penalties commencing in 2015.

Throughout the HITECH Act the term ‘EHR’ was mentioned well over 100 times and EMR was not. This illustrates that people must begin to use the appropriate word when discussing electronic records.

Although ‘EMR’ is more popular of a term, ‘EHR’ is considered the proper term when discussing a system that is: connected, where patients have access and where physicians can add to the records.

EMR = Physician-centric

EHR = Patient-centric