EHR vs. EMR | Healthcare Interoperability, Benefits

January 17, 2023

With the U.S. healthcare industry fully adopting technological solutions, terms like Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and Electronic Health Record (EHR) have become standard terms. While they sound interchangeable, they serve different purposes. 

The government has invested billions of dollars in transitioning from paper to digital records over the past decade. This migration brought about the need for EMR and EHR. Except we critically examine these systems we might not appreciate their uniqueness and relevance.

This article seeks to shed more light on the differences between these often used terms in today's healthcare. 

What Is an EMR?

Electronic Medical Records are a digital version of physicians' traditionally used paper charts for in-patients. This digital information contains everything you will find on a paper chart, such as diagnosis, medical history, immunization dates, allergies, medications, etc. 

During the early days of digital medical information, physicians were more focused on medical diagnosis and treatment; this justifies the use of the word Medical in EMR. 

EMRs are primarily used within the hospital and do not extend outside the practice. EMR has several advantages to the industry, including;

  •  Improved patient care 
  • Better means of reminders for patients' checkups, screenings, and follow-ups.
  • Optimized data tracking
  •  Security of sensitive patient data.
  •  Enabling practitioners to glance at patients' vitals like; blood pressure, temperature, weight, etc
  •  Allowing providers to know their overall performance in treating their patients. 

What Is an EHR?

After EMR became popular, practitioners discovered that it could be even better. Thus the electronic health record was born. Thus the electronic health record was maintained. The EHR can perform many of the same functions as the EMR and much more.

EHRs are more focused on the patient's overall health and not just medical data revealed by tests and lab results. Its enhanced functionality can lead the healthcare industry into a more secure and connected digital environment. 

Electronic Health Records can be shared with other providers and not just locally within a hospital. EHR also presents the ability to track additional information like; lab results, data from personal wellness devices, insurance information, and demographic data. 

For example, when a patient starts seeing a new provider, the EHRs system makes it easy for that provider to access the patient's medical records and medical data from every other provider involved in the patient's care without troubleshooting from scratch. 

EHR also plays a vital role in the Medicare/Medicaid program, necessitating EHR to improve patient outcomes. The EHR has become more popular than EMR due to its endorsement by Medicare/Medicaid. 

Understanding the Difference Between EHR and EMR

The significant difference is in the name; 'Medical' and 'Health.' Health covers a broader scope than medical. It refers to the overall health situation and is not limited to medical diagnosis and lab results. While they have proven to be more effective than paper-based records, EHRs can still be considered the next-generation EMR.

Some other differences between EHR and EMR include; 

  • EHRs aims to reach beyond the healthcare organization that initially diagnosed and compiled the information. Instead of EMRs, whose design only allows for usage within the organization, the diagnosis occurred. 
  • EHR also increases patient engagement as they are the new bearers of their health records. Their information can move freely to other providers and specialists across states or even country borders. However, EMRs do not require the involvement of patients in the management of their medical data. 
  • In addition, if you use a Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT), then it meets the Meaningful use standards for incentive-based programs administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service. But EMRs have no such privileges attached.
  • The scope of data you get from EHRs is incomparable to EMRs. Because EHR cuts across all fields of medicine the patient has ever been involved with, from labs to pharmacy and healthcare facilities. But EMR is restricted in scope to just diagnosis and treatment information. 

What Documents Exist in EHR?

We have discussed how the data contained in EHR covers a broader scope when compared with EMRs. Here are some examples of data that is likely to be in EHRs;

  •  Billing data 
  •  Vital signs and history 
  • Diagnoses and Prescriptions 
  •  Immunization and Vaccination doses 
  •  Lab results 
  •  Personal patient information (e.g., name, age, next of kin, emergency contact, etc.)
  • Radiology images and reports

 Benefits of Using EHR Systems Over EMRs

Ability to Access Important Information During Emergencies

In the past, practitioners often gave wrong prescriptions to patients brought in an emergency. This was mainly due to their inability to access patient medical history to check for allergies and past ailments. 

With EHR, the attending practitioner will have enough information to make treatment decisions and prescriptions. 

Security In Storing And Sharing Information With Others

EHR systems (particularly certified EHRs) provide a secure means of storing and sharing health information with others. The information used in EHR systems is safeguarded from hackers and impedes their ability to steal copies of your data for fraudulent purposes. 

Patient Portal Features

A patient portal enables patients to input their information from the comfort of their homes using an internet-enabled device. This eases the stress involved in filling out stacks of paper forms that your staff will eventually have to input on by hand. 


It is easier for the physicians to transmit electronic prescriptions to the pharmacist instead of using a piece of paper. 

The patient only has to pick up the medicine from the pharmacy. Moreover, e-prescribing will save patients time since the pharmacy will process the e-prescribed medication as soon as the prescription is received.

Optimized Reporting System

Depending on how your staff customizes the EHR application, it might be easier to generate reports for your practice. Reports include revenue projections and the number of patients defaulting in their bill payments after the second notice. 


As we have examined, EHR is the future of healthcare as they contain sufficient information that can help improve patient care between all providers in the healthcare system. 

While both EHRs and EMRs have commonly used terms today, EHR is more recognized by the CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information (ONC). They explain that the word health is more encompassing than 'medical.' 

Finally, a fully functional EHR should help your organization effectively; improve your process flow in care, increase your patient's engagement, improve the quality of care you provide while saving the cost of care for your practice.

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