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How to Tell the Difference Between an EMR, EHR, or PHR

How to Tell the Difference Between an EMR, EHR, or PHR

posted by: Nicole Hovey date: Feb 06, 2019 category: Blog comments: Comments Off on How to Tell the Difference Between an EMR, EHR, or PHR

Many people use the terms electronic medical record (EMR), electronic health record (EHR), and personal health record (PHR) interchangeably. This can confuse patients, consumers, and even regulators.

Although an EMR, an EHR, and a PHR are very similar in practice, there are some differences in how the terms are used.

Similarities Among EMR, EHR, and PHR

The three acronyms are confusing mainly because the terms they represent already share many similarities:

These are all records—that is, collections or repositories of data—that contain health-related information
Like EMRs and EHRs, PHRs also can be stored electronically and managed by some type of software
Although only PHR has “personal” in its name, all three terms may involve information of a personal nature
Only two of the three terms use the word “health,” but all three are health-related.

Definition of Electronic Medical Record (EMR)

According to HealthIT.gov, an EMR is the digital version of the patient charts created by individual health facilities and providers. The data included in an EMR are primarily used to diagnose and treat a patient’s concern. Unlike paper charts, EMRs can help clinicians track and monitor data over time and identify patients with particular needs.

The biggest drawback to an EMR is that it is confined to a single provider. Traditionally, EMRs do not support interoperability or the exchange of information. While the EMR is an improvement over traditional paper charts, its failure to use standards-based interoperable data can fall short of “meaningful use.” A 2008 report by the National Alliance for Health Information Technology noted that the EMR term could become obsolete.

Definition of Electronic Health Record (EHR)

Like an EMR, an EHR is also a digital version of a patient’s chart. An EHR, however, includes data from all clinicians and facilities involved in a patient’s care. All authorized providers and staff can access this information to treat a patient.
Such information includes:

Diagnoses and allergies
Medications and other treatment plans
Immunization dates
Test results and radiology images
Provider contact information

The EHR follows the patient, and is not specific to a location. For example, an addiction treatment client may receive care from a family doctor, testing laboratory, psychiatrist, and substance abuse treatment clinic. Each of these providers would contribute that client’s data to the same EHR. This makes the EHR essential for data sharing and coordination of care.

Similarities Among EMR, EHR, and PHR

The three acronyms are confusing mainly because the terms they represent already share many similarities:

These are all records—that is, collections or repositories of data—that contain health-related information
Like EMRs and EHRs, PHRs also can be stored electronically and managed by some type of software
Although only PHR has “personal” in its name, all three terms may involve information of a personal nature
Only two of the three terms use the word “health,” but all three are health-related

According to HealthIT.gov, an EMR is the digital version of the patient charts created by individual health facilities and providers. The data included in an EMR are primarily used to diagnose and treat a patient’s concern. Unlike paper charts, EMRs can help clinicians track and monitor data over time and identify patients with particular needs.

The biggest drawback to an EMR is that it is confined to a single provider. Traditionally, EMRs do not support interoperability or the exchange of information. While the EMR is an improvement over traditional paper charts, its failure to use standards-based interoperable data could fall short of “meaningful use.” A 2008 report by the National Alliance for Health Information Technology noted that the EMR term could become obsolete.

Definition of Electronic Health Record (EHR)

Like an EMR, an EHR is also a digital version of a patient’s chart. An EHR, however, includes data from all clinicians and facilities involved in a patient’s care. All authorized providers and staff can access this information to treat a patient.
Such information includes:

Diagnoses and allergies
Medications and other treatment plans
Immunization dates
Test results and radiology images
Provider contact information

The EHR follows the patient, and is not specific to a location. For example, an addiction treatment client may receive care from a family doctor, testing laboratory, psychiatrist, and substance abuse treatment clinic. Each of these providers would contribute that client’s data to the same EHR. This makes the EHR essential for data sharing and coordination of care.

Definition of Personal Health Record (PHR)

What makes PHRs different from EMRs and EHRs is who controls it. Although the data kept within a PHR may come from an EHR, the patient is in charge of PHR management and access. This helps patients collect and manage their own health information in a private, and confidential environment.

Patients can enter information into their PHRs themselves, such as their lifestyle habits or over-the-counter medications. They also can add data from other sources, including home monitoring devices and additional care providers.

The above definitions of an EMR, EHR, and PHR are tied to the concepts of meaningful use and interoperability. As these ideas are refined and implemented, the definitions also may evolve.

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