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EMR vs EHR - How electronic health records will improve patient care?

15 mins read

What Is The Difference Between EMR And EHR?

At the hospital or medical spheres, it’s quite often that some terms may be used as one or at least meaning one particular notion. The same case is with concepts like EMR and EHR, as they are often treated as something similar. However, there are some differences to consider.

There are benefits of shifting from paper form to a digital version of records attributed to patients, staff, and related people. It has been required for all healthcare institutions and hospitals to modify their record-keeping means. This has given the rise to electronic medical records and electronic health records. Their appealing side is convenience in use.

Imagine a patient coming to the physician. That patient has been suffering from colon cancer but the reason he has come to another physician is difficulty breathing. By accessing the data about this patient, any doctor may think something related to his main disease, which is cancer. Simply put, better diagnosis and treatment options have become more accessible and used in medicine thanks to the digitalization of medical records.

How does EHR or Electronic health records differ from EMR (Electronic medical records)?

What is EMR or Electronic medical records? It’s a digital version of paper charts specific to one patient. Such EMR is added to electronic data based on a single treatment case. If to exemplify, if one male patient is being treated against migraine, his electronic chart will contain all details of treatment and patient’s history. But generally, any EMR of any patient is generally placed and stored in one particular clinic. Such EMR data don’t ‘migrate’ from one clinic to another, thus making it less convenient when comparing with EHR.

What is EHR (Electronic Health Records)? Actually, it’s like EMR, but there’s more that it can perform. First of all, it’s important to note that EHR doesn’t focus on one particular treatment case to be stored in a particular place. For example, in the case of EMR, there have been cases when physicians printed the records and would send them to another physician in another clinic. Thus, it can be said the EHR makes it possible for medical data to ‘migrate’ from one place to another where such data will play an important role in treating the patient.

EHR is an electronic version of medical data but not focusing on one single treatment history. Instead, it focuses on the overall health history of the patient. For example, if any patient is brought to the emergency, it’s important that medical staff won’t inject something he or she is allergic to. So, here comes EHR that can enlighten any healthcare staff responsible for treating the patient. Moreover, EHR minimizes unneeded screenings of the patient, which in turn can be detrimental to the patient. Since all screenings will be reflected on the electronic records, any physician will have to think over what is needed more, instead of undergoing every procedure again.

It’s not a surprising fact that electronic data has made treatment and healthcare more efficient in many senses. It’s not only about easily accessible data, but such data makes the treatment more cost-effective. If to go beyond one clinic with the main focus on more accessible data to authorized personnel, EHR is definitely more efficient and more practical.

EMR and EHR systems: Top 5 Software Solutions using in Health Care

Any software offering EMR or EHR, generally they are quite interchangeable terms, helps to make all health care treatments and services easier, more convenient, and more easily reachable for medical staff. Such software offers the following:

  • Templates that are easy to customize and configure, making note-taking for physicians more convenient
  • Creating reports on how efficiently any program proceeds or how good the compliance with rules is, given the standards and laws regulated by the government
  • Granting an opportunity to create better communication between patients and staff, as it can be challenging for a physician to make their patients tell everything about their health condition from scratch
  • Treating and prescribing remotely is also possible with such software, given all the treatment history is accessible from a desktop computer or mobile phone
  • synchronization of all information with management, billing system, e.t.c

When choosing the best software, it’s important to have certified EMR and EHR systems.

What doesn’t it mean a certified system? When such software is tested and reviewed, it can become certified provided there’s compliance with standards and regulations. When vendors create their software based on EMR and EHR systems, they should submit their creation for review, and once they’re certified, the software can be considered reliable and applicable in the clinics. Find out 5 top software to be implemented in the clinics:

eClinicalWorks: maybe the best among EHR software options. There are many benefits it provides. Being compatible with many devices, you get the maximum benefit from accessing data more conveniently. The software is user-friendly and thanks to the support online and training sessions available, working with the software makes it possible to perform all the tasks more easily and faster. Moreover, it has features like prescribing from distance, tracking compliance, scheduling appointments automatically, and so on. One of the main disadvantages is its price which is $449 per user monthly.

Cerner Ambulatory EHR: one of the greatest software solutions by Cerner. It’s supported by different operating systems including iOS. For now, it doesn’t support the Android operating system. Among the features, there are compliance tracking, voice recognition, SSP (Self Service Portal).  It doesn’t support the recognition of handwriting. Moreover, this software offers training options, in-person, and live connections, with easily reachable support online. Alas, this software doesn’t offer a free trial. With this software, any physician can benefit from e-prescribing. It gives an opportunity to assign an automated appointment to avoid lines in clinics. Its starting price is $25 per user monthly.

Practice Fusion: it’s an ambulatory EHR with a cloud-based feature. It claims to have more than 5 million patients benefiting from this system on a monthly basis. Moreover, this software has several awards for its unique software making it one of the best choices for clinics. What’s more, unlike some software options, this one offers a free trial. The price for this is $99 per user monthly. Since it’s a cloud-based system, it works on Web-Based clouds, with internet access. Moreover, there are great training sessions and webinars. But there is no in-person training available. Support is accessible during business hours. It’s good for e-prescribing, charting, automating the schedules of appointments, and many other things. Also, don’t forget that it is HIPAA compliant.

EpicCare EMR: fast and easy software for clinics. Like Practice Fusion, it has several awards for being one of the most convenient and efficient software solutions to be used in health care. The prices should be discussed with vendors on their site. For now, it offers cloud-based services along with the support of iPad and iPhone. Alas, it doesn’t offer any training, only documentation. Since it’s an EMR software as it was mentioned above when considering EMR vs. EHR), it lacks many features, unlike EHR counterparts. Still, it allows scheduling the appointments.

AdvancedMD: one of the most efficient EHR software. There are great features you can benefit. It offers unified practice management along with patient tools. Medicine from a distance is among its best features, a good option for rural places, and patients with chronic disorders or diseases. It’s supported on many devices along with cloud services available. Moreover, it offers great support online along with training options as well. For now, there’s no Android support, but iOS users may benefit from its mobile version.

Advantages and disadvantages of EHR and EMR

Electronic data any doctor can access from their computer, be it cloud-based or installed. This has made it much easier and hassle-free. Not so long ago, it was a normal situation for doctors searching for something among myriads of files. The other problem used to be to understand what the previous doctor had written. There were cases reported when tons of such information got lost due to natural climaxes, fires, or floods. The places where the files were stored could be vulnerable to unexpected situations, thefts, and other human-related flaws. However, all these have changed when the electronic world replaced handwritten charts. So, in general, it can be said that EHR has great benefits over conventional means of storing information.

What are the EHR benefits?

Improvement in quality of treatment and care for patients: fewer mistakes in understanding the bad handwriting or fewer possibilities of misinterpretation for doctors. Simply put, these are what did change with EHR:

  1. More accuracy in charts and other related docs making the tasks for physicians less challenging and much faster
  2. Quicker responses to emergency with alert notifications sent to give alerts in case of possible hazards to health
  3. Tracking and managing files have become easier in many senses thanks to great software solutions
  4. Implementation of preventing care has become more accessible and trackable
  5. Support has become more accessible even in distant places along with prescriptions without a need to visit a doctor personally
  6. Integration of information for better clinical procedures making interesting and unusual cases more accessible to understand the guidelines to be implemented

Convenience in use: since the software has replaced the standard way of keeping records, there has been an increase inconvenience. Interoperability within EMR electronic health records and EHR electronic medical records has provided many conveniences both for physicians and patients.

For medical staff, especially physicians, EHR contributed in the following ways:

  • Greater cooperation and collaboration with other physicians from both different clinics and majors
  • Facilitation of billings
  • Less paperwork to do and more space to work
  • Possibility to curb labour effort and energy

For patients, EHR contributed in the following ways:

  • They can access their medical records any time they want, upon their request
  • No need to go to their doctors for getting prescriptions, which makes it more convenient for people living in remote areas and have some locomotive restrictions
  • There has been reported that patient satisfaction has increased substantially after EHR and EMR implementation in clinics

Interoperability benefits: since the data becomes more available and easily accessible, there are some great points regarding the interoperability benefit:

  1. A decrease in malpractice and treatment errors thanks to a more accurate filing
  2. Charts are more accurate providing all the required information along with lab reports
  3. No need for duplicate testing anymore, as all information will be included in the system, contributing to the cost-effectiveness
  4. Promotion of healthy life and medical awareness in patients
  5. Updated information without any missing piece of information
  6. Improvement in the coordination of care for patients
  7. More focus on the safety of the patients
  8. Emphasis on the privacy of the patients and protection from an information breach

What are EHR cons?

Breach of data: one of the main problems with electronic records is that they can be hacked and not protected properly. There can be an attempt to steal such data with the help of cyber-attacks.

Flaws in data: one of the problems is that no matter how digital everything can be, there is no protection against human mistakes or inattentiveness. So, inaccurate data might happen at any time for any patient.

Burden of the data: it happens that by accessing their own medical history, patients get scared with the terms they come across. There were cases when patients confused the simple term of papilloma, a skin tag on the skins, with some kind of tumour, a needless burden of information may happen.

Despite some problems related to EHR electronic health records, there are many great sides that outweigh negative ones. Being a software tool, there are some problems that can occur to any software. So, there are some important steps for fixing possible problems related to software:

Need for the all-in-one flow of documentation: since lots of information is inserted in the storage, there is a need for this process to be more efficient and without mistakes. Thus, there are many organized and ready templates with indications of where and which information should be provided.

Need for assigning proper workflows: besides the burden of documentation, there is a need to assign the particular framework to provide seamless functioning. There are mainly four fields to specify. One is medication, focusing on the information about the medicine and its storage along with uses. The other is fatigue indicator, making alerts of the system more efficient. Lab results are also taken into consideration. Numeric and text displays play an important role as well.

Need for compliance with standards and regulations: it’s important that there are compliances with rules stating how data flow should be treated to avoid possible risks in the future. One of the well-known compliances is known as HIPAA. There are many software systems offering HIPAA compliant working systems.

What are the most critical stages in EHR development?

When developing an EHR system, there are some steps to know. The process can take some time, but it’s more important to give priority to the efficiency of EHR development in any medical institution.

  • Creating a team to cooperate can be a good start: for the process to be on time and successful, having a reliable and hardworking team is a must. There is a lot to discover while implementing this system. So, the team will consist of an EHR user expert, physician, and project manager
  • Getting the software: why not conduct a compliance test to be sure that the software works in compliance with HIPAA. Moreover, testing the software before implementing could be a great idea. Some software companies offer free trials to benefit from
  • Getting the required hardware: no matter how perfect software can be, there is always a need for reliable hardware. Distributing hardware efficiently is an important step, affecting efficiency and costs at the same time
  • Creating a reliable atmosphere for the patients: there have been cases when patients complain about how their physician will turn their faces from patients and fill out something on the computer, creating an awkward and insecure feeling. Imagine a doctor sitting in silence and typing something all the time. That sounds creepy. Thus, it’s important to create an atmosphere where such things won’t happen
  • Transferring the medical records: interoperability is what makes EHR quite appealing, fast, and convenient in use. Thus, what kind of information should be shared and what should be kept private better be assigned beforehand
  • Creating efficient workflows: to assign what EHR will process and include is the best way to increase unnecessary workload. Isn’t the purpose of this system to create an easy to use atmosphere both for working personnel and patients
  • Readiness for possible setbacks: no technology is ideal, and thus it can be vulnerable to possible problems and glitches. Thus, it’s important that medical staff should be prepared to act accordingly, and treating the patients is an incessant process. So, there is a need for strategies to keep everything in the process even without EHR
  • Training of the personnel: even though EHR isn’t something new, the implementation can be a painful process. Mistakes and unwillingness of people to learn may hinder the process, but constant training can improve the situation. Moreover, there are some standards and regulations that every medical staff member should be aware of in order to avoid possible penalties
  • Starting to implement the EHR system: such a process can be done out of sudden, with a snap of fingers. A fast and mandatory approach is not welcomed everywhere though. There is an approach based on a step-by-step guide so that every member of the medical institution will be aware of how the system works
  • Collecting feedback: such practice can make the system more efficient and contribute to more efficient updates in the future. So, informing the staff members to be open in providing feedback regarding the EHR system

When implementing this system, it’s important to consider the costs. There are two types of costs, direct and indirect. According to some statistics, the cost of implementing the system may cost up to more than $160K. However, there’s no homogeneity of costs, as every software solution may vary. There’s a factor like a cloud storage, which has additional payments. The indirect costs include those factors during the process of implementation and use of the system. For example, training of the staff members may entail additional costs. 

What are the opportunities for EHR in the future?

When considering electronic medical records vs. electronic health records, it’s clear that the latter has more perspective with the regard to the future. As technology develops, EHR will have more modifications to make the job for everyone much easier and less troublesome. However, it’s not without its risks as well.

With the development of imaging screening and other medical technologies making the diagnosis more precise, all types of data will be available in electronic format. More and more, such a system will focus on reducing human-induced flaws and providing more accurate information, making healthcare more efficient and cost-effective. According to some experts, the EHR will move more towards cloud storage making the data of the patients more accessible not only from computers. However, at the same time, such developments may entail perils. Thus, the best future of EHR is creating more mobile, accessible, and hassle-free access to data along with the maximum protection against stealing, breaching, and hacking the data.

Conclusion

The difference between EMR and EHR is more related to the scope of the information and accessibility aspect. Thanks to the development of technology, the medical sector has witnessed great improvements regarding the flow of information. When considering any particular advantage or disadvantage of EMP electronic health records and EHR electronic health records, it’s clear that there are more positive aspects and that the electronic record system has a bright future.

Not everything is ideal with an EHR system, though. Problems exist, and thus it’s important that anyone involved in recording the information should be aware of how, what, and where to keep the information. Moreover, the EHR should be in compliance with regulations and laws to ensure the safety of the data and protection of the personal information of the patients. But it’s a fact that EMR and EHR systems have changed a lot in healthcare. 

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Dmitry Broshkov
CEO of ZenBit Tech
January 11, 2021
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