What Is an Electronic Medical Record (EMR)?
An electronic medical record (EMR) is a digital version of a paper chart that contains all of a patient’s medical history from one practice. An EMR is mostly used by providers for diagnosis and treatment.
Benefits of Electronic Medical Records
An EMR is more beneficial than paper records because it allows providers to:
- Track data over time
- Identify patients who are due for preventive visits and screenings
- Monitor how patients measure up to certain parameters, such as vaccinations and blood pressure readings
- Improve overall quality of care in a practice
The information stored in EMRs is not easily shared with providers outside of a practice. A patient’s record might even have to be printed out and delivered by mail to specialists and other members of the care team.
Differences between Electronic Medical Records and Electronic Health Records
An EMR contains the standard medical and clinical data gathered in one provider’s office. Electronic health records (EHRs) go beyond the data collected in the provider’s office and include a more comprehensive patient history. For example, EHRs are designed to contain and share information from all providers involved in a patient’s care. EHR data can be created, managed, and consulted by authorized providers and staff from across more than one health care organization.
For example, EHRs are designed to contain and share information from all providers involved in a patient’s care. EHR data can be created, managed, and consulted by authorized providers and staff from across more than one health care organization.
Unlike EMRs, EHRs also allow a patient’s health record to move with them—to other health care providers, specialists, hospitals, nursing homes, and even across states. For more information about electronic medical records and the differences between EMR vs EHR, please visit the Health IT Buzz Blog.
Why Adopt EHRs?
Health care is a team effort. Shared information supports that effort. When all team members can communicate with each other effectively and efficiently, everyone benefits—patients, their families, and providers. The Nation's health and economy benefit as well. Electronic health record (EHR) adoption requires investment of time and money, but the benefits often outweigh the costs, and financial incentives are available to help providers make the transition.
- Over 144,000 payments totaling $7.1 billion have already been issued to professionals and hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) 1
- An estimated $22.5 billion will be paid from 2011 – 2022 to eligible providers who adopt EHR technology 1
Better Information Means Improved And Safer Health Care
The main goal of health IT is to improve the quality and safety of patient care. The promise of fully realized EHRs is having a single record that includes all of a patient's health information: a record that is up to date, complete, and accurate. This puts providers in a better position to work with their patients to make good decisions.
Providers who use EHRs report tangible improvements in their ability to make better decisions with more comprehensive information. EHR adoption can give health care providers:
- Accurate and complete information about a patient's health. This enables providers to give the best possible care, whether during a routine office visit or in a medical emergency, by providing the information they need to evaluate a patient's current condition in the context of the patient's health history and other treatments.
- The ability to quickly provide care. In a crisis, EHRs provide instant access to information about a patient's medical history, allergies, and medications. This can enable providers to make decisions sooner, instead of waiting for information from test results.
- The ability to better coordinate the care they give. This is especially important if a patient has a serious or chronic medical condition, such as diabetes.
- A way to share information with patients and their family caregivers. This means patients and their families can more fully take part in decisions about their health care.
EHRs can also flag potentially dangerous drug interactions (to help prescribing doctors explore alternatives before a problem occurs), verify medications and dosages (to ensure that pharmacists dispense the right drug), and reduce the need for potentially risky tests and procedures.
Embracing EHR Adoption: Some Facts and Figures
Based on a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics, over two-thirds (71%) of EHR adopters would purchase their EHR system again and nearly one-half of physicians currently without an EHR system plan to purchase or use one already purchased within a year.2
Percent distribution of electronic health record satisfaction among office-based physicians2
What Does the Evidence Show?
Evidence of benefits of EHR adoption, e-prescribing, and other components of health information exchange is mounting.
- Researchers at the Center for IT Leadership (2010) studied the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, an early adopter of health IT and exchange, and estimated that savings from preventing adverse drug events alone totaled $4.64 billion.
- In Indianapolis, Finnell and Overhage (2010) found that a majority of emergency medical professionals said they benefited from access to pre-existing health information—medication lists, allergies, medical histories—through electronic exchange. Medics said the information was especially useful for patients with frequent emergencies and those who were unconscious, uncooperative, or otherwise unable to provide medics with needed information.
- Shapiro et. al. (2011) examined health information exchange projects in 48 States. Although the projects faced some financial and technical hurdles, they showed enormous potential for improving public health reporting and investigation, emergency response, and communication between public health officials and clinicians.
- Persell et. al (2011) found that EHRs can use information on patients' medical histories to improve quality significantly by reminding providers of the best methods of care for specific patients.
- Levingston, S. A. (2012). Opportunities in physician electronic health records: A road map for vendors. Bloomberg Government.
- Jamoom E, Beatty P, Bercovitz A, et al. (2012) Physician adoption of electronic health record systems: United States, 2011. NCHS data brief, no 98. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.