Our television idea of a hospital is full of drama - attractive doctors and nurses running through hospitals, their lab coats flying behind them, their stern faces and misty eyes scrutinizing the chart of a terminal patient. It’s exciting, it’s dangerous, and it’s full of heroism. While this image is not entirely made of Hollywood magic, it gives us little information about the internal workings of a clinic or hospital. No one ever talks about healthcare software on the medical dramas we all know and love.
Healthcare software solutions have revolutionized the way clinicians keep track of patients’ medical records. Paper files, easily lost or damaged, are a thing of the past, and quickly being replaced with digital alternatives. In fact, U.S. Federal mandates in 2014 made the change from paper to digital obligatory in all active healthcare facilities. This birthed the terms “electronic health record,” and “electronic medical record,” or, EHR and EMR.
These terms may sound similar, and indeed they are often used interchangeably, but they describe things which differ in not insignificant ways. In this article, we’re going to teach you the difference, each term’s precise application, as well as introduce you to a few other healthcare software solutions.
What is an EHR?
According to the Office of Healthcare Information Technology, an EHR is:
“...a digital version of a patient’s paper chart. EHRs are real-time, patient-centered records that make information available instantly and securely to authorized users. While an EHR does contain the medical and treatment histories of patients, an EHR system is built to go beyond standard clinical data collected in a provider’s office and can be inclusive of a broader view of a patient’s care. EHRs can:
- Contain a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, and laboratory and test results
- Allow access to evidence-based tools that providers can use to make decisions about a patient’s care
- Automate and streamline provider workflow
One of the key features of an EHR is that health information can be created and managed by authorized providers in a digital format capable of being shared with other providers across more than one health care organization. EHRs are built to share information with other health care providers and organizations – such as laboratories, specialists, medical imaging facilities, pharmacies, emergency facilities, and school and workplace clinics – so they contain information from all clinicians involved in a patient’s care.”
What is an EMR?
According to the Office of Healthcare Information Technology, an EMR is:
"...an electronic record of health-related information on an individual that can be created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff within one health care organization," [and] have the potential to provide substantial benefits to physicians, clinic practices, and health care organizations. These systems can facilitate workflow and improve the quality of patient care and patient safety.”
What’s the Difference Between EMR and EHR Solutions?
Essentially, an EMR is a medical record, or “chart”. This is the record of health screenings, checkups, and emergency visits taken down in a single hospital or clinic. It can be detailed, and can contain diagnoses and treatments from multiple providers, however it will all be internal to that specific healthcare facility.
On the other hand, an EHR is, simply put, an extended EMR. It contains the information one would expect to find on an EMR, however includes ALL records, from ALL facilities, which pertain to a unique individual. It is a complete healthcare record for one person, across organizations, including laboratories, nursing homes, and specialist clinics in addition to hospitals and PCPs. This is sometimes referred to as the “total health” of the patient.
What Are the Benefits of EMR and EHR Solutions?
An EHR is cumulative healthcare data gathered on a single patient by multiple sources, which is able to be shared securely between facilities. This information benefits both the patient and the practitioners.
The patient is able to receive more comprehensive care when a practitioner has access to a greater range of information that just what they have access to at their specific office. And, the practitioner can avoid running duplicate tests, making redundant diagnoses, and performing unnecessary assessments if the secure sharing of information is enabled by an EHR.
While EMRs have great potential to facilitate change in the healthcare system, they have only been adopted by 4 percent of clinics across the U.S. for reasons of inefficiency, as well as issues of technological implementation.
Other Healthcare Solutions
Patient records are not the only aspect of medical management being changed by a new digital era. All departments relevant to the operation of medical institutions are updating in the face of a decreasingly paper-friendly world.
- Medical Practice Management Software deals with everyday operations in a clinical setting, allowing providers to enter and track patient information, and process insurance and payment information.
- E-Prescription Software allows medical providers to send prescriptions and necessary diagnostic information directly to pharmacies, avoiding illegible handwritten notes and extraneous wait periods.
- Hospital Management Software manages all internal operations of a hospital, including: patient data, doctor and medical staff information, hospital billing, reception, labs, etc.
It takes so much more than diagnostics and and IV bags to run a hospital. But, with these healthcare software solutions in place, it makes everyone’s job in healthcare a little easier.
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Looking for the perfect pair of scrubs for your first day at the hospital? Check out our other article, Cute Scrubs and Where to Find Them, for professional garb that will have you looking and feeling fantastic.