EHR vs. EMR - Definion and Difference

Posted by: Alok Prasad

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What is EMR or Electronic Medical Records?

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) were initially developed as digital replacements for paper-based medical records, with a primary focus on storing and managing patient health information within a single healthcare organization. Over time, as the technology behind these systems advanced, EMRs began to offer additional features and capabilities, such as the ability to share information with other healthcare providers and the incorporation of decision support tools.

EMR, or Electronic Medical Records are "an electronic record of health-related information on an individual that can be created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff within one health care organization." EMRIn other words, an EMR is a digitized paper chart  (paperless medical chart) that includes “all of the key administrative clinical data relevant to that person’s care under a particular provider, including demographics, progress notes, problems, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunizations, laboratory data and radiology reports". It offers a comprehensive view of a patient’s medical history and replaces traditional paper-based charts and manual workflows with digital files and electronic transmissions in the physician practice.

Paper Charts vs. Electronic Medical Records

Paper charts, also known as traditional or handwritten medical records, are physical documents that contain patient information and medical history. As discussed above, EMRs are digital records that are stored electronically and can be accessed and updated by healthcare providers in real-time. Now, let's dive into the top differences between these two methods of record keeping.

  1. Accessibility and Portability: Paper charts are physical documents that must be stored and transported physically, while electronic medical records (EMRs) can be accessed and updated from anywhere with an internet connection, and can be easily shared between healthcare providers and facilities.
  2. Efficiency: EMRs offer a faster and more efficient way to manage patient information compared to paper charts, which require significant time and effort to search for and update specific information. With EMRs, healthcare providers can quickly and easily retrieve, update, and track patient information.

  3. Accuracy: EMRs are less prone to errors and inconsistencies compared to paper charts, as electronic systems can automatically flag inconsistencies and incorrect data entries, reducing the risk of human error.

  4. Cost: Implementing an EMR system may initially come with higher costs due to hardware and software expenses, but in the long run, it can save money by reducing administrative and storage costs associated with paper charts.

  5. Security: EMRs are often more secure than paper charts, as electronic systems offer access controls, audit trails, and encryption to protect sensitive patient data. Paper charts can be easily lost, stolen, or damaged, which can lead to a breach of patient privacy and security.

What is EHR or Electronic Health Records?

EHR or Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are a digital version of a patient's health history that offers a comprehensive view of a patient’s medical history including important clinical administrative data relevant to the care provided to that person. EHR is created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff across multiple health care organizations over time and is the key to providers making better decisions and providing better care.

EHRs enable providers to collaborate by storing demographics, progress notes, problems, medications, vital signs, lab results, imaging studies, past medical history, immunizations, laboratory data and radiology reports over a period of time and the enabling solution like interoperability provides for better workflows and reduced ambiguity, and allows data transfer amongst EHRs and health care stakeholders.

When did EHRs become more prevalent?

The use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) became more prevalent in the mid-2000s and early 2010s. This was driven by a number of factors, including:

  1. Technological advancements: The development of more sophisticated and user-friendly EHR systems, combined with the widespread availability of high-speed internet and increased computing power, made it possible for healthcare providers to adopt EHRs on a large scale.

  2. Government incentives: The government provided financial incentives for healthcare providers to adopt EHRs, including the HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) of 2009, which provided funding to help healthcare providers adopt and use EHR systems.

  3. Increasing focus on patient safety: With the increasing emphasis on patient safety and quality of care, healthcare providers recognized the benefits of using EHRs to improve the accuracy and efficiency of patient care.

  4. Changing healthcare landscape: The increasing demand for cost-effective and efficient healthcare, combined with the growing number of patients, made it imperative for healthcare providers to adopt EHRs to keep up with the changing healthcare landscape.

As a result of these factors, the use of EHRs became more widespread, and today, most of the healthcare providers rely on EHRs to manage patient health information.

It's important to note that the terms EHR and EMR are still used interchangeably by some vendors, and the distinction between the two can sometimes be a matter of interpretation. However, in general, the distinction between EHRs and EMRs has become widely accepted, and EHR is now the preferred term used to describe comprehensive and interoperable electronic health record systems. This shift in terminology reflects the growing importance of electronic health records in the healthcare industry, and the recognition of the significant benefits that EHRs provide to both healthcare providers and patients.


What is the Difference Between EMR & EHR?

Here are some examples of differences between the capabilities of EHR (Electronic Health Records) and EMR (Electronic Medical Records):





Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) were primarily designed for digitizing and managing a patient's medical record within a single healthcare organization with the goal of improving the efficiency and accuracy of record-keeping. , and making patient information more readily accessible to healthcare providers.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) were designed primarily to provide a comprehensive and interoperable view of a patient's health information and include additional features, such as the ability to share patient information with other healthcare providers, and decision support tools.

Scope of Information

It is a digital version of a paper chart that contains patient medical history, diagnoses, medications, and treatment plans, usually within a single healthcare organization. 

It is designed to be compiled, accessed, and shared by anyone who provides care or treatment for a particular patient or group of individuals. It moves beyond traditional boundaries of practice, health care network, and even geography to provide a complete, longitudinal record of the patient's health to enable more complete coordination of care.


EMRs typically lack the ability to share information with other healthcare providers or systems, making it challenging to coordinate care with other providers outside of a single organization

EHRs, on the other hand, have a higher level of interoperability that allows patient data to be shared securely and electronically among authorized healthcare providers.

Care Coordination

EMR systems may have limited capabilities for care coordination.

EHR systems are designed to support care coordination across multiple healthcare providers and settings. This allows healthcare providers to share information and collaborate on a patient's care plan.

Analytics and population health management

EMR systems may not have the same level of analytics and population health management capabilities as EHR.

EHR systems often include analytics tools that allow healthcare providers to identify trends and patterns in patient health data. This information can be used to improve patient outcomes and population health.


Overall, EHR systems are designed to provide a more comprehensive view of a patient's health history, support care coordination across multiple healthcare providers and settings, and improve patient outcomes through advanced analytics and decision support capabilities. EMR systems may have more limited capabilities, focusing primarily on clinical documentation and management of patient health information within a single healthcare organization.

Which Is Better, an EMR or EHR?

EHRs offer a wealth of advantages to both patients and providers over their EMR counterparts:

  • Clinical notes and hospital documentation move with the patient from one care setting to another to ensure continuity of care. 
  • Diagnosis and treatment histories, as well as allergy information, are available to emergency medical personnel to inform treatment decisions when the patient is unable to speak for himself. 
  • Health reporting and surveillance across multiple care organizations improve public health and population health outcomes. 

In a nutshell, then, EHRs are designed to break down barriers among all the stakeholders involved in a patient's care. At the same time, EMRs are designed around the workflows and efficiencies of a particular practice or provider. And that's why certification standards and CMS Meaningful Use requirements apply specifically to products designated as electronic health records. These systems are meant to have broader applications than a practice-specific EMR.

Topics: EHR Selection, Provider/Physician, Consultant

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