Key Differences Between EMR and EHR Explained

Whether you are new to working in healthcare or you have been doing it for some time, there is one thing that never seems to get easier; the paperwork!

As well as this, the necessity of having patient records stored on digital systems can create a bit of confusion, too, from the different operating systems in different healthcare settings to the acronyms that are being used being overly similar.

All of these points and more can lead to many people new in healthcare having the following question when being trained in the digital systems that are used in healthcare; what is the main difference between an electronic medical record ( an EMR) and an electronic health record (an EHR) anyway?

There are some similarities and differences, which will be explored here. Enjoy!

The Scope

Firstly, one of the key differences between an EMR and EHR is the systems’ scope and purpose.

An EMR focuses on the patient’s medical history with one practice or healthcare facility. So, it will have the data that has been created in the facility, such as medications, diagnoses, tests, and treatments plan. As such, EMRs are for internal use.

Suppose you were to go into a hospital and the doctors there were looking through your data; that system is an EHR. It is more comprehensive and spans multiple sources. It’s kind of like a permanent record of your health, and its goal is to provide a longitudinal view of healthcare.


As it is an internal document, an EMR has limited access, making it hard for doctors at surgery to share patient data with other healthcare providers. Of course, EMRs can be shared in emergencies, but the software is designed to make exporting the data as difficult as possible!

However, during a 2 am ER run, an EHR will be accessible to all of the doctors and nurses on call, allowing them to see all of the patients’ information pertained in the system. This has the advantage of allowing for better emergency care and reducing the risk of medical errors if you are unconscious.

Patient Engagement

Have you ever visited your family health doctor and asked for a copy of your medical records for insurance or a lawsuit?

In this sense, the documents you will be given are usually EMR, but outside of this scope, you cannot access these medical records. They are treated as almost top-secret due to security breaches, and, in many cases, you will have to wait at least a week to get access to printed files from your doctor or other healthcare provider. EHR, on the other hand, are accessible via patient portals, so your patients will be able to see their health information and test results and request appointments via these digital pathways. This helps to keep patients in the loop and to be able to talk to doctors and other healthcare providers digitally. It also ensures that they have a more active role in managing their health so that they can make decisions on their care from an informed position.

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