EMR vs. EHR? Are They The Same And Should We Care?

Today I learned a new distinction that may be obvious to many, but somehow escaped me.  For the last five years, the numerous discussions of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Electronic Health Records (EHR) seem to have blurred in my mind. But today I read a post that finally helped set me straight… and provided further insight in my on-going quest to define and  ‘master’ patient-centered marketing. 

According to EHR Scope’s blog:

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.

Others define EHR as a longitudinal electronic record of patient health information generated by one or more encounters in any care delivery setting and includes a variety of patient information such as demographics, medications, past medical history etc.


Let’s say you were on vacation and had a serious accident that left you unconscious…the ER physician cannot provide medication right away because he/she is unsure if you have any specific allergies…An EHR is the system that is able to transfer your records to the ER where you are on vacation. An EMR cannot.

And 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 starting in 2015.

Should we care?

Yes, EHR means connectivity, and greater automation and streamlining of workflow–where patients have access and where physicians can add to the records…where patients and their families stand a greater chance of receiving quality and evidenced-based care, especially when minutes can matter.  For me personally this seems particularly relevant given recent family circumstances… my Dad suffered a near fatal accident half way around the world where minutes helped save his life. But there was no EHR, just old fashioned paper records and a wife of 60 years to be his voice. Going forward, I’d like to know that a more effective and patient-centered system is in place for us all…