EHR vs. EMR: Which Is Better for Your Practice?

By: Mike Landers - Guest Contributor on November 23, 2022

You may have heard of the terms "EHR" and "EMR," but what do they mean, and which one is suitable for your healthcare organization?

EHR (electronic health record) and EMR (electronic medical record) are both software systems used to manage patient data. However, there are a few key differences between the two that could make one more appropriate for your needs than the other.

In this article, we'll break down EHR vs. EMR and help you decide which one is right for you.

EHR vs. EMR: A brief introduction

EHR and EMR are both electronic management systems, but they differ in many ways.[1]

An EMR (Electronic Medical Record) is a single provider's digital representation of a patient's health chart. An EHR (Electronic Health Record) is a more detailed report of the patient's overall health details. It is tailored to be shared with other health providers, allowing authorized users to access a patient's medical records instantly.

While EHRs are made to allow authorized clinicians and personnel from several organizations to access a patient's information, EMRs are primarily utilized by healthcare professionals for diagnosis and treatment. An EMR does not easily travel outside the practice and may require printing and mailing to get to another provider.

EHR vs. EMR: Which is right for you?

EHRs and EMRs both pose a set of benefits and drawbacks:

Advantages of EMR

EMRs offer several perks to clinical practice. Not only are they an improvement from paper records, but they are also more affordable. EMRs also allow you to:

  • Enhance care coordination.

  • Track patient data over time.

  • Reduce manual errors.

  • Identify patients who require preventive screenings or checks with ease.

  • Check the status of particular metrics for your patients, such as blood pressure readings or immunizations.

  • Keep an eye on and raise the level of care provided across the practice.

  • Improve patient involvement in treatment.

  • Boost your practice's efficiency and cost savings.

Disadvantages of EMR

  • Can't be easily transferred out of a practice.

  • Spending time on EMR training means spending less time with patients.

  • Unless properly configured, there's also the risk the EMR will malfunction, destroying all data.

Advantages of EHR

If you’ve been wondering why we discussed EMRs first, here’s why: EHR systems offer all the benefits of EMRs plus more.

  • Decision Support: EHR offers access to evidence-backed tools to support clinical judgments. [2] When assessing treatment alternatives, an EHR is savvier enough to alert you to drug interactions, assist you in making a diagnosis, and direct you to evidence-based recommendations.

  • Electronic interaction and communication. An EHR further boosts interoperability as you streamline your practice by interacting with other practitioners, labs, diagnostic centers, and payers online.

  • Patient support. EHRs allow you to engage your patients by enabling them to contribute their data to online surveys and home monitoring devices and get instructional materials.

  • Administrative support. EHR aids in practice management and assists in preventing treatment delays. Patients may set their appointments, and providers can check their insurance eligibility.

  • Population health management and reporting. EHR is integral to epidemiology processes. For instance, with a searchable EHR database, you can track how many TB patients you treated in a given year and quickly track your diabetic patients' sugar levels.

Disadvantages of EHR

EHR systems are not always user-friendly and can be expensive to implement. In addition, some laws restrict [3] the use of EHRs in mental health settings or specialty practices. EMR systems are often more affordable than their EHR counterparts, so you may consider this option if your practice is on a tight budget or wants to start small with just one system.

How to leverage a successful health management system for your organization

An EHR/EMR system is a great way to improve the efficiency of your medical practice. However, you can't just rely on an EMR or EHR system to do everything for you. You need to make sure that your organization uses its information management tools correctly and effectively for them to be effective.

Here are some tips:

Store all patient information electronically

Store all records related to diagnosis, treatment plans, billing information, and more electronically. It would help if you also tracked how long patients have been treated using digital charts that store all patient data (including test results).

Track medication usage

This is especially true when monitoring patient compliance with their prescribed therapies. You should use the system to track each patient's medication usage (including dosage and frequency) to determine how well they respond to the treatment plan.

Safeguard access protocols

Employ robust security layers [4] to inhibit breaches and put up security measures to ensure all access credentials are only accessible to authorized persons. This helps ensure that no one has access without necessary permission and ensures HIPAA compliance.

Configure and continually backup

Effectively configure the system initially and continually back up your data to avoid losses.

Best practices for implementing an EHR or EMR system

EHR and EMR systems are beneficial to companies of all sizes. They can help manage your medical records, improve patient satisfaction, reduce liability, and increase productivity.

With both systems' clear advantages and disadvantages, it is crucial to determine which would work best for your organization. There are many factors to consider when choosing and implementing an EMR or EHR system. You must consider if any specific needs within your facility or office space will benefit from having one of these tools installed on-site. 

Do you need more help determining whether you need an EHR or an EMR for your practice? At Software Advice, we’ll help you find the right system for your needs and budget in 15 minutes or less. Schedule a call to chat with a software advisor now for free. You can also visit our resources hub for more software insights.