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Dan Murdoch

November 6, 2023
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EHR vs EMR: What's the Main Difference Between Them?

EHR vs EMR: What's the Main Difference Between Them?

Electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records (EHRs) sound one and the same, but they actually refer to specific types of medical software. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, knowing their key differences can help you run your practice more efficiently. 

What Is an EMR?

An electronic medical record  is the digital version of a patient chart and medical records. It allows for easy access, updates, and review from clinicians while protecting patient data in a secure platform. An EMR houses a wide range of information, such as patient history, allergies, diagnoses, lab test results, immunization records, medication notes, allergy indications, and clinician notes. 

EMRs are primarily used by healthcare staff, but they can also be given directly to patients for their own review. They are frequently merged with a medical billing software to make the insurance process easier. 

What Is EHR in Medical Terms? 

As healthcare technology evolved, EHRs were developed as a successor to EMRs. An electronic health record (EHR) is very similar to an EMR, except they are instant and can only be accessed by the appropriate parties. EHRs contain a wide array of information including the following:

  • A patient’s medical history
  • Their current and past diagnoses
  • The medication they’re taking
  • The treatment plans they’re on
  • Their allergies
  • Their test results

EHRs are considered to be the next step in digital health record technology. They can help improve communication and interaction with a patient. EHRs are also able to improve healthcare by allowing doctors to prescribe more accurate prescriptions, provide complete documentation and better securing a patient’s medical data.

What Are the Main Differences Between EHRs and EMRs?

You might be thinking that both EMRs and EHRs are nearly identical. What exactly is the difference between EHR and EMR? The nuances are not easy to notice at first, but there are certain factors that separate EMRs and EHRs.

1. Scope and Reach 

EHRs have a much wider scope and reach than an EMR. EHRs can be accessed by multiple healthcare providers, which makes it easier to transfer the relevant data to a new doctor should the need arise. 

Key difference:

  • EHRs are accessed by multiple healthcare providers.
  • EMRs are solely accessed by one healthcare provider.

2. Purpose

EMR and EHRs have a similar purpose as a digital record of a patient's healthcare, but what makes them different in this regard is that EHRs are more comprehensive.

Key difference:

  • EHR systems offer various clinical tools to help improve a patient's health and store data relevant to labs, hospitals, and other specialties.
  • EMR systems store data related to one clinic and their in-house specialists.

3. Data Sharing & Interaction

The way that these electronic records allow data sharing is different as well. While EHRs can share data broadly, EMRs only allow data sharing in-house.

Key difference:

  • EHR systems can share data between multiple medical providers and practices.
  • EMR systems allow data sharing amongst a single healthcare provider.


Incentives like the Center of Medicare and Medicaid's Meaningful Use program have influenced more practitioners to adopt EHRs instead. 

In all healthcare fields, EHRs are now being seen as the gold standard of medical record keeping. 

What is the Main Benefit of EHRs?

The main benefit of EHRs is that they are more comprehensive and shareable across different practices and providers.

What is the Main Benefit of EMRs?

The main benefit of EMRs is that they require less file management bandwidth for clinics who have in-house specialists.

In Short: What Is the Biggest Difference Between EMRs and EHRs? 

Both EMRs and EHRs are equally important to the medical sector. EMRs are suitable for hospitals and practices that have in-house specialists and clinics where patients primarily stay within that practice for care. EHRs, on the other hand, are key for hospitals and clinics who do not have specialists on-site, these records focus on more comprehensive patient data and lab results.

While both aim to make it easier for doctors to maintain digital records, EHRs do have a better scope and increased functionality. EHRs are more advanced than EMRs and are quickly becoming the standard in all aspects of medicine.

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