EHR or EMR, Which One is Right For Your Clients?


With the growing complexity of health care worldwide, it’s critically important for all the various providers to have the correct systems in place to collect and distribute the necessary information.

As a firm involved in medicine begins to look for software solutions for their operations, they will first find themselves needing to decide between electronic health records (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR).

While sometimes used interchangeably, the terms are not the same. EHR refers to a longitudinal archive of all the patient’s information. EMR features current data about a present illness, hospitalization, course of treatment, or other medical event. Data from EMR is used to build EHR.

So as your company looks at EHR vs. EMR, how do you evaluate the two options and decide which is the best route for you to go? There are several areas of relevance.

Security Concerns

While either system can contain sensitive information, EMR bears the most acute risk to patients. That is because a breach in record security can have immediate impacts on a patient’s care. Errant prescription information, damaged lab results, or altered provider notes could be immediately dangerous to a patient’s health.

On the other hand, EHR typically has time to be corrected before problems emerge. Should something alter a long-standing prescription, the patient will be aware of the discrepancy and have time to act on it. This stands in contrast to a patient who has suffered some type of acute medical event and has been prescribed a new medication. Knowing no differently, he or she may accept the erroneous script and begin taking the wrong medication.

Duration of Patient Contact

Certain situations do not require a full dissertation on the patient’s lifelong health record. For example, ambulance personnel would use EHR because they are mostly in need of the immediate event information: when did symptoms start, what are the symptoms, what has been done to treat them, and so forth. A quick view of major history, such as prior cardiac issues or chronic conditions like diabetes, is relevant, but agonizing detail is not necessary and interferes with appropriate action.

Conversely, a patient who may be seeking treatment to evaluate a chronic or persistent condition of some kind will need a provider to have that decades-long record. If a patient presents with a nagging cough, there could be events throughout the patient’s life that have precipitated that, everything from a childhood injury to chemical exposure on the job or in the military. In these settings, EMR is the best choice.

Research Purposes

Of course, the most obvious setting for use of EMR is the research field. Scientists working to develop new medications, therapies, or other interventions need to have absolutely comprehensive knowledge of what variables are in play. They must know what effect a patient’s history has had on the response to that therapeutic action before being able to conclude that it will or will not work for others.

So for clients at universities, research hospitals, government health institutes, and the like, EMR is the most viable choice to present that vital supply of minutiae about every known incident in the patient’s lifelong health.

No matter the particulars of your needs, there is no doubt that either EMR or EHR can fulfill them. It’s just a matter of examining your needs and your processes, and the determining which of these two routes makes the most sense. As is always the case in any aspect of health care, it is simply a matter of understanding what is most important to the situation.


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