The Age of Digital Healthcare — A Closer Look at EMRs & EHRs

There’s a lot of discussion in the healthcare market about Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). The impetus for EMRs, as you may recall, wasn’t the desire by healthcare organizations to come into the digital age, but a US Stimulus Bill that was passed in 2009 that mandated each person must have an EMR by 2014.

So, here we are…2014 is right around the corner. And the discussion about the value, the benefits, and patient privacy surrounding the topic of EMR is vast.  Given all of this, we thought it might be worth examining EMRs a bit more closely. After all, EMRs are a component of healthcare that has significantly changed the way people interact and practitioners practice.

EMR vs. EHR

To begin, what’s the difference between an EMR and EHR (Electronic Health Record)? When I polled a few people, they honestly didn’t know there was a difference.

EMRs, Electronic Medical Records, are simply a digital version of a patient’s paper chart that contains all of his/her medical history obtained about his/her care at one particular medical provider’s office. Providers use EMRS for diagnosis and to help decide treatments. EMRs include all medical data collected by that provider such as labs, stats, and notes from each medical appointment.

EHRs, Electronic Health Records, go beyond data collected at one provider’s office to include a more comprehensive patient history. The intention of the EHR is to collect and share data among all providers regarding a patient. With permission, the EHR can be accessed by more than one provider and across multiple organizations.

The advantage of the EHR is that it allows a patient’s health record to move with him/her — to other providers, specialists, hospitals, etc., even across cities and states

Security

HIPAA Privacy Rule requires specific protections to safeguard patient information regardless of what format it is in. So, protections extend to EMRs and EHRs.

The methods organizations use to ensure data is secure are extensive and vary — perhaps a post for another day.

The Benefit

The most important benefit of EMR or EHR is the net result of a comprehensive record of a patient’s medical data. Gone are the days of large paper charts and digging through archives. All information is easily accessible to the provider.

A great value could be argued for EHRs because all care members of the team have immediate access to the latest information, enabling more coordinated, patient-centered care.  For example, lab results are included in the record so one provider doesn’t duplicate lab work that another provider already has under way.

Additionally, a patient can access his/her own EHR online to view lab results, upcoming appointments, and his/her medication list. Access to this information can help the patient to better manage his/her own care by being able to comprehensively view lab work or medications.

EMRs and EHRs Rock

In theory, EMRs and EHRs rock. That’s right, they are the super stars of the digital age in healthcare. Okay, that’s just my opinion…but, remember, I said in theory.  In reality, the transition from paper to digital hasn’t been easy for organizations and the implementation of technology poses some challenges  when it comes to patient-centered care.

Yet, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages don’t they? What do you think?

More to come on EMR and EHR next month.

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