DrFirst Healthcare Technology Blog

EMR and EHR: Almost the same, but different

October 11, 2010

EMR,EHR – they’re both the same, right? Not so fast — there is actually a difference between the two.

The National Alliance for Health Information Technology, which was tasked a few years ago with developing the official definitions for these technologies, issued the following:

Electronic Medical Record (EMR)
“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.” In the more common ambulatory office environment this means “within your own office or the office locations of your group practice.

Electronic Health Record (EHR)
“An electronic record of health-related information on an individual that conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards and that can be created, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff across more than one health care organization.” This broader definition highlights the importance of “interoperability” among different entities and systems which can range from simple to very complex and expensive solutions.

The real world definitions and implementation of these record systems will often blur the lines of the simple descriptions above since most systems are usually customized by the end user to optimize functions and modules that best fit the specialty needs and local circumstances of the practice.

Individual physician practices ready to go paperless would look to implement an EMR that the physicians and staff would use to create and maintain medical records for their own patients. It’s a stand-alone system for use by the practice only.

The more expensive EHR is a record system that in theory can interface or integrate with other providers’ systems and be used by all clinical stakeholders. In addition, over the past 5-10 years the stakeholder community  has expanded to sometimes include insurance companies, government entities, hospitals and others with a “need to know.” The recent expansion of the stakeholder community has highlighted the need for first-rate security policies and practices that protect the patient’s Privacy and Confidentiality.

If you are a physician practice ready to go paperless, an EMR or the more complex EHR may be right for you. DrFirst has 120 partners who can transition your practice to a paperless EMR/EHR system quickly and efficiently. Once your  EMR/EHR vendor is certified for the Medicare or Medicaid “meaningful use” functions, your practice will become eligible to apply for financial incentives offered by the HITECH Act – that’s as much as $44,000 – $63,500 over the next five years!

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About the Author

Tom Sullivan Chief Strategic Officer

Thomas E. Sullivan, M.D is a board-certified specialist in cardiology and internal medicine with over 40 years of clinical practice. He currently works for DrFirst and sees patients part-time in Massachusetts. His expertise in the application of information technology to health care has helped to create an international standard (ASTM) for the exchange of medical record information called the Continuity of Care Record (CCR). With AMA, he was founding chair of their e-Medicine Advisory Committee, worked with the Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement, represented the AMA and helped create the Physician EHR Coalition and is past chair of the AMA Council on Medical Service.

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