EMR (Electronic Medical Records) and EHR (Electronic Health Records) are digital records containing health and medical related information for a patient. It is becoming nearly mandatory for medical practices to carry and report their patient data in electronic format in order to meet new US Government Healthcare reporting requirements.
What is the difference between EMR and EHR? They are often used interchangeably.
EMR, or Electronic Medical recordsare the medical records of a patient at a given practice.
EHR or Electronic Health Records, are the totality of health related information (patient-based) for a given patient, and can be sent electronically to many medical ports of call: other doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, or government health related agencies such as Medicare and Medicaid for reimbursement.
Though in the long run EMR and EHR should improve the quality of healthcare for patients and make record keeping easier for doctors, in the short term they are not easy to integrate with a paper-based practice. There are vendors that can hold your hand and help you prepare for the process better than others. It is important for a practice to determine the level of support a vendor will provide, and to prepare a realistic implementation plan for the move to EMR / EHR.
EMR / EHR software is available via client server installation, or as a cloud-based and web accessible subscription service. See our discussion of cloud-based medical software for some understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
When buying electronic medical records software, there are many issues to consider:
- How easy – or difficult – is it to use? How many clicks do simple transactions and inputs require on a user’s part?
- What is the real cost – including deposits, leasing, training, rental, equipment?
- How does the product interface with your other sources of data and medical practice management programs?
- How easy is it to migrate data from portable sources and smart phones?
- How well does the program protect patient privacy?
- Is it HIPAA compliant?
- Is it compliant with new CCHIT standards for Electronic Health Records (EHR)?
- Can the software qualify your practice for Meaningful Use incentive payments?
- How is the product licensed – by computer, by group license?
- What kind of support and training does the company provide?
- How is training paid for, and how much training comes with the initial purchase or lease?
- Can the system be customized to fit your medical specialty?
For comparisons of different electronic medical record or medical EMR software, download the free Medical Software Selection Kit.