EMR vs EHR

The Similarities and Differences: EHR vs EMR

The healthcare industry has been undergoing so many major changes over the last few years that it can be difficult to keep up. One of the biggest has been the transition of health records from paper to digital, a moved spurred on by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

As of January 1, 2014, all public and private healthcare providers were required to make “meaningful use” of electronic medical records (EMR). The switch to using digital health records made it easier to understand a patient’s medical history and avoid mistakes that often derived from things like handwritten text or lost paper documents.

One area that has often been confused during the transition are the terms used for electronic health records (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR). Even though both often get used interchangeably, it’s important to know the difference between EHR vs EMR. That’s because While their acronyms only deviate by one letter, the definitions for EMR vs EHR contrast greatly.

Electronic Medical Records (EMR)

An EMR is the logged, clinical digital data a single practice has kept on an individual patient spanning one or more visits. These are typically limited to the records collected by the office of one physician, specialist, or dentist, for example, and usually contain things like diagnosis and recommended treatments.

EMRs provide many benefits for a practice, including helping with improved patient monitoring, developing more effective treatments, while offering patient scheduling that includes more accurate reminders when a patient might need a screening or check-up, for instance.

An important and unique distinction regarding EMRs is that they are not commonly shared outside the walls of an individual organization. A standard EMR usually stays within a doctor’s office, for instance, even if the patient decides to switch to another physician, move out of state, etc. Think of an EMR, then, as the internal records from one medical practice on a patient.

Electronic Health Records (EHR)

Whereas EMRs are essentially the product of one practice’s care and generally confined to that organization, EHRs offer more of a shareable, comprehensive view of a patient’s health history.

EHRs were designed to offer different providers a complete, updated medical history on a patient, detailing everything from basic demographics, medications, allergies, immunizations, prior surgeries and more.

The aggregated information contained in EHRs is meant to give a background on a patient, and follow them as they move from different practices, specialists, hospitals, pharmacies, and beyond.

One of the goals of EHRs is to digitally connect authorized practices with each other to make better, faster decisions about treatment, which is called interoperability. This method replaces organizations having to fax or send paper records from previous doctors, for instance, or start over from scratch in other cases. In this way, sharing knowledge about a patient’s history derived from multiple physicians helps provide the best possible care and coverage for a patient.


There’s no debating the similarities of EHR vs EMR, but it helps to know the differences between the two. As much as the healthcare system has improved with the use of digital medical records, it’s still important to understand the key, functional differences between terms like EMR vs EHR to make better decisions.