Are you interested in becoming a medical assistant but not sure the difference between an electronic health record (EHR) and an electronic medical record (EMR)? Some medical professionals may use them interchangeably, but they do have unique use cases.
What is an EMR?
An EMR, or electronic medical record, is the digital equivalent of an individual patient’s paper chart at a doctor’s office or medical facility. It contains a patient’s medical and treatment history at a single medical facility and includes:
- Personal demographics
- Vaccination records
- Medication list
- Vital sign trends
- Progress notes
- Postoperative reports
- Treatment plans
- Lab results
- X-rays and other images
- Billing information
Electronic medical records have a distinct advantage over paper records. They are held safely in a server or the cloud so they can’t be accidently viewed by the wrong person. Some systems even have password protection that depends on the staff’s level of access. They are also searchable with the click of a mouse. When a patient calls and asks when they last received a flu vaccine, for example, they can get an immediate answer. No need to rummage through stacks of files to find out answers, just search the EMR database and save time.
EMRs are also convenient for both doctors and medical staff. Doctors can track health data, such as changes in weight or respiration rate, over time. They can even identify patients who are overdue for preventive services and reach out to them to set up an appointment. Doctors can even understand trends in the community to better serve them during an epidemic.
However, most EMR systems are integrated into a single practice’s management software and are designed for use by one practice or facility. This is intended to offer confidentiality to the patient as many data points are personal. Intimate knowledge of the patient may be kept in the electronic medical records but what is ok to share can be found in an electronic health record. That is essentially the difference between the two digital records.
What Is an EHR?
EHRs, or electronic health records, have a broader scope. They contain the non-sensitive information in EMRs, including financial data, plus records from multiple providers and facilities. The EHR may also include allergies, medications taken, or other important information that can stop duplicate tests or unnecessary exposure to harmful substances.
What’s the Difference Between EMRs and EHRs?
While EMRs are designed for proprietary use, EHRs are built to be accessible by everyone involved in the patient’s care, from the primary physician and hospital staff to medical billing specialists. Everyone that is involved in the care of the patient, from the doctor to the person filling out insurance claims has access to the EHR.
Why not just replace EMRs with EHRs? The answer lies mostly in patient privacy and the HIPAA act. HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is a federal law that required the national standards to protect patient privacy and confidentiality, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By using both EMRs and EHRs confidential data can be shielded from the wrong eyes and patients can control who sees what about their healthcare.
The Benefits of EMRs and EHRs
There are many important benefits to using electronic medical records and electronic health records. Here are a few:
Benefit #1: Collective Patient Care
With the help of EMRs, it is easy for a physician’s office to see trends and understand the health of an entire community. Is a flu going around? Does the practice need to order more vaccines or is the vaccine rate high enough? With the help of the collective data, physicians can make better decisions for their patients.
Benefit #2: Historical Tracking of Patient Records
When paper records were used, physicians had to review historical records to understand the health trends of a patient. Did an older disorder or disease contribute to a current diagnosis? Has a test been administered? Being able to track historical records at the touch of a button makes it much easier for physicians to improve patient health outcomes.
Benefit #3: Monitor Patient Outcomes
It is much easier for a physician to monitor a patient’s outcome with the help of electronic medical records. It took much more time and they ended up seeing less patients. Now, they can set reminders and updates to trigger after specific procedures. Plus, the physician has a keener eye on their patient’s health outcomes.
Benefit #4: Lower Error Rate
Medical errors are preventable. Whether it is a typo or a life-threatening error, it is important to get a treatment and diagnosis correct. The use of electronic health records helps lower the error rate of a patient’s treatment. Having all the patient’s information, allergies, medications, labs, and diagnostics at the ready allows a physician, nurse or even medical assistant to reduce the number of errors they make, helping patients thrive in the process.
Benefit #5: Saving Time and Resources
When medical facilities used paper records, there was always one person dedicated to mailing and faxing copies of records that were needed for referrals. Now, with electronic health records, the physician or nurse can access the patient’s records from their computer or mobile device. This saves a lot of time and resources.
Benefit #6: Make Healthcare More Affordable
When a physician or medical facility must pay for extra staff, storage and office supplies, they must either take the loss or pass on the cost to patients. With the savings that comes with electronic medical records, medical facilities can pass on the savings to the patient, making healthcare more affordable.
Benefit #7: Bolster Public Health Surveillance
If we have learned anything from the COVID pandemic, it is that we need to be proactive with public health surveillance. Having the country’s information at the governments fingertips helps stop pandemics in their tracks. The ability to see health information on an aggregate scale allows the government agencies to see trends as they happen, stopping them before they become a crisis. And electronic health records can help.
An easy way to become a medical assistant is to take a medical assisting program at a vocational school. When starting from scratch, it is important to have a formal education to rely on. This will make it so you don’t have any knowledge gaps that may arise from only receiving on the job training.
How Long is Medical Assisting School?
Enrolling in a vocational school program full-time, you can graduate in as little as 7 1/2 months or take evening classes part-time and complete the medical assisting program in 15 months, almost a year less than it takes to get an associate degree. No need to attend a university or 2-year college. You learn the medical assisting trade in a fraction of the time and still have access to the same opportunities within medical facilities.
Ready for a new career in the medical assisting field? The Medical Assistant program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice. The Medical Assistant program provides hands-on experience in a real medical setting where you can foster professional relationships with actual patients. Medical Assistant students spend 160 hours in an externship in an actual medical environment where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.