Basics of digital health: EHR vs EMR vs PHR

The interoperability of medical data has always been one of the major challenges in healthcare. As digital health has made inroads, electronic patient records became the de facto standard for storing patient charts. Not only do electronic records improve accessibility and sharing of medical data, but they also allow patients to be more involved in treatment regimens.

Today, we’ll have a closer look at all types of e-records and how they are different from standard paper charts.


Fundamentals of EMRs

EMRs or electronic medical records are records of medical care that store sensitive patient data, including lab tests, prescriptions, and other health-related data. EMRs are usually associated with a particular organization or practitioner. 

Ideally, EMRs should be shared between providers and settings to provide a broader view of an individual’s medical history.

The EMR software includes all the information stored in the traditional paper-based records such as charts, orders, test results, etc. It also includes data on a patient’s condition or history that they have shared with the doctor or nurse practitioner during visits over time.


Fundamentals of EHRs

EHR stands for electronic health record, and it is a patient’s health history that is recorded electronically by multiple individuals over time. The EHR can be accessed through a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Electronic health records have become an important part of medicine. The EHR system stores data such as diagnosis codes, test results such as lab reports, or X-rays taken at different times during illnesses over time.

The adoption of EHRs has skyrocketed over the last few years. Thus, nearly 4 in 5 medical organizations had adopted a certified EHR, according to HealthIT. According to other experts, the high adoption rate is driven by the benefits that medical institutions get from integrating EHRs. These include patient engagement, accessibility, regulation, and standardization of medical data.


Fundamentals of PHR

PHR stands for personal health records, and it is a collection of patient-history records that are accessible online. Unlike EMRs and EHRs, personal charts are updated and managed by a patient, instead of an organization. Personal medical charts can include any health-related data from test results to exercise logs. 

Although these records aren’t associated with professional use, PHR systems are still useful for tracking treatment progress and collecting data for clinical decision-making. 


What is the difference?

While all three seem to be similar, EHR vs EMR are not used interchangeably in healthcare settings. An EMR is created in one doctor’s office and is usually used within a particular organization. EHRs, on the contrary, are put together by multiple specialists and clinics over time. Usually, medical data is a part of EHR records. Finally, a PHR can be created by the patient and is ideal for personal use.

The main similarity shared by all three types of records is their compliance with security standards and healthcare regulations. Even some PHRs that are offered by healthcare providers and health plans are by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Electronic medical and health records are subject to HIPAA by default. 


What benefits does digital health provide?

According to Bloomberg, the global market for digital health is projected to hit over $367 billion by 2028. And all three types of records contribute to digitizing the healthcare industry. 

As you might expect, the trend of digitalization is designed to make it easier for physicians and other health professionals to access and share patient information. Let’s have a closer look at other benefits of digital records.

Providing a single source of care

Doctors can use an EHR to collect information from multiple sources in one place. This makes it easier for them to see all the relevant medical data on a patient’s history, so they don’t need to go back and forth between different systems when making decisions about treatment options. It also helps prevent miscommunication between clinicians and patients.

Providing easier access

EMR systems allow doctors and other clinicians to access their patient’s records from any computer or mobile device with internet access. The same goes for patients—they can get answers quickly without having to wait in line at their doctor’s office. Enhanced accessibility is especially helpful for individuals living in far-flung areas with limited access to professional help.


One of the most important benefits of digital health records is that they are interoperable with other EHRs, meaning that patients can access their medical records from any provider they choose. 

The vast majority of EMR systems today are built on top of a common set of standards, which means that if you have one EMR system at work, you could potentially move over to another company and still access all of your medical data through it. 

Moreover, digital records provide the ability for caregivers to share patient information with one another, without having to go through individual paper documents. This helps reduce duplication of effort and contributes to more accurate data.

Increased security

Moreover, digital records have the potential for greater security and privacy. As information is stored electronically instead of in physical documents, it’s more difficult to access the records for unauthorized users. Multiple safeguards such as end-to-end encryption, multi-factor authorization, and role-based access allow caregivers to store and transmit data in a safe way. 

Patient engagement

Finally, the shift to digital grants more control to patients. Care recipients can access their records at any time, get e-prescriptions, pay medical bills, and get updates on new treatments. This transparency also increases trust between patients and healthcare providers as well as improves customer satisfaction at a given medical facility.


The final word

In 2022, digital transformation is imperative for health systems. Along with enhanced interoperability and easier access, digital health records take healthcare to a new, more aware level. 

By integrating EHRs and EMRs with other medical systems and wearables, clinicians can get a broader view of an individual’s wellbeing and perform a more accurate diagnosis. As interoperability regulations are entering into force to break down health silos, digital records will become the de facto standard for storing patient data. Therefore, we are likely to see increased adoption rates of EMRs and EHRs in the coming years.