One of the most important aspects of an electronic health record is that it is different from an electronic medical record, although the two terms tend to be used interchangeably by people who are unaware of the difference.
By definition, an EHR is an aggregate electronic record of a person’s health, which may be contributed to by more than one organization. It has a longer time span, and it is more comprehensive. One comment that accurately describes the difference is than an EHR is about a person’s overall health, whereas an EMR is focused on a particular medical situation or incident.
As I just mentioned, an EMR is about a person’s medical information, which tends to be focused on one particular situation or course of treatment. The information on an EMR is created, gathered, and managed by the staff and clinicians of a single organization.
Advantages of EHRs
Essentially, the big difference is than an EHR is interoperable, and can facilitate communication between multiple health practitioners across the country.
Because an EHR pulls data from other systems, it can provide a more comprehensive view of a patient’s health, preventing mistreatment and alerting a doctor of a patient’s special health conditions. It can also be used to measure quality indicators, which means that a clinic that uses EHRs can qualify for pay-for-performance incentives.
What this means for you, the patient, is that adopting EHRs will also give doctors greater competitive forces in the market, which will push up the quality of care even higher.
There’s also the unprecedented access to medical data that will be made possible by this transition. Such data could accelerate the knowledge of effective medical practices, allowing for much more efficient and cost-effective research.
The market, however, has been slow to adopt these technologies, which is unfortunate. Many analysts have considered them a turning point in the history of healthcare, allowing a new, comprehensive view into a patient’s illnesses and medical history.
The conversion of paper health records to electronic records is the first step, and many older, more established practices are reticent to even begin here. And the integration of these records into a national system of communication is being presented with obstacles on multiple fronts.
One, for example, is a concern about privacy, but this objection can certainly be addressed by creating and adhering to a set of best practices for medical information technology, which is a process that has already begun.
The change is sure to come, and we can all do our part to facilitate it by asking our doctors to begin converting today.