EMR vs EHR: What’s The Difference?

Author: Paul Singh
Categories:  Helpful Resources

The terms electronic medical record (EMR) and electronic health record (EHR) have been used interchangeably by many, but there is a distinction between the two.  In this article, we’ll look at what EMR and EHR have in common and how they differ from one another.

First, let’s look at each definition from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology:


Electronic medical records (EMRs) are digital versions of the paper charts in clinician offices, clinics, and hospitals.  EMRs contain notes and information collected by and for the clinicians in that office, clinic, or hospital and are mostly used by providers for diagnosis and treatment.  EMRs are more valuable than paper records because they enable providers to track data over time, identify patients for preventive visits and screenings, monitor patients, and improve health care quality.

An EMR is used primarily by providers for diagnosis and treatment.  EMRs were not created to be shared outside the individual practice.


Electronic health records (EHRs) are built to go beyond standard clinical data collected in a provider’s office and are inclusive of a broader view of a patient’s care.  EHRs contain information from all the clinicians involved in a patient’s care and all authorized clinicians involved in a patient’s care can access the information to provide care to that patient.  EHRs also share information with other health care providers, such as laboratories and specialists. EHRs follow patients – to the specialist, the hospital, the nursing home, or even across the country.

An EHR is designed to share a patient’s information and history with authorized providers and staff from more than one organization (i.e. specialists, hospitals, nursing homes) and even from state to state.

How EMRs & EHRs Differ:

The real key to figuring out how EMRs and EHRs vary comes from the words “medical’ and “health”.  An EMR is a narrower view of a patient’s medical history and an EHR is a more comprehensive record of a patient’s overall health.

In other words, EHRs pretty much do everything an EMR does, and more, focusing on the total health of the patient and, including a broader view of a patient’s care.  The “health” of a patient can include mind, body and spirit.

The benefits of an EHR become even more evident if a patient is admitted to an ER and the primary care provider’s notes are enlisted to pinpoint a medical condition or warn the clinician of a life-threatening allergy.  Having access to a patient’s overall information in these situations could mean the difference between life and death.

Please note:  EMRs and EHRs are different than PHRs (personal health records), which are designed to be set up, accessed and managed by patients.  Patients can use PHRs to maintain and govern their health information in a private, secure and confidential setting.

If you have EMR questions, StrataPT has your answers.  If you are thinking about starting your own practice or if you have an existing practice, StrataPT can provide uniquely personalized software along with concierge-level customer service.  Whether you have a single location or multiple locations, we’ll grow with you every step of the way!

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