Posted By Monique Dever On September 2, 2014
The terms “Electronic Medical Records” (EMR) and “Electronic Health Records” (EHR) are so often used interchangeably and also incorrectly. There are some important distinctions between the two, especially in Public Health settings! Let us simplify it for you.
Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), simply put, are just the digital version of the traditional paper charts in medical practices; unique to individual providers or practices. EMRs are essentially the notes captured by that individual practice or venue of care (e.g. a primary care practice, local health department or hospital). These records are specifically medical and are for the provider’s use.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) by contrast, are much more comprehensive. They are meant to be an all-inclusive record about a patient, independent of where service is provided and by whom. This means that each provider looking at a patient’s information will also have relevant information from all the other sources. In addition to capturing patient visits, the EHR will also include information from labs, other community providers (e.g. hospitals or primary care physicians), the immunization registry, prescription information (no matter who prescribed the medication) and state syndrome surveillance systems.
In a report by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) they said,
“EHRs are designed to be accessed by all people involved in the patients care—including the patients themselves. Indeed, that is an explicit expectation in the Stage 1 definition of “meaningful use” of EHRs. The information moves with the patient—to the specialist, the hospital, the nursing home, the next state or even across the country.”
So how does a Public Health Department benefit from an EHR system?
- A comprehensive view of a patient across various venues of care
- Rapid collection of and easy access to patient data
- Consolidated records that are accessible via your EHR
- Easy way to consolidate data for population management
- Increased patient safety because providers now have complete and accurate information about patient medications
- Time and effort saved associated with medication reconciliation—no more asking patients to recall which medications they are on
- Better clinical decision support and patient reminders
- Thorough tracking of how a patient’s medical profile compares to the rest of the population