The Alphabet Soup of Medical Information: EHR, EMR and PHR

Many people have tossed around the terms EHR and EMR as being one and the same and indeed, they are similar. Add to the mix the acronym PHR too; however, they are not the same thing and it’s essential that all service providers from medical transcriptionists to software vendors and users know what the differences are.

Electronic Medical Records are created within the medical provider’s office or facility (oftentimes as the result of remote transcription) and basically replace the paper chart system that was previously used. EMRs are intended for the use of the provider and staff in order to maintain care of the patient. Patient information does not necessarily flow in a digital format to anyone else.

Electronic Health Records are electronic medical records and more. EHRs are designed to share digital information between medical providers… so an internal medicine physician who is concerned about a patient’s ongoing cough may refer him for diagnostic imaging. The image might flow back to the doctor in digital format along with the report, which the original doctor might forward together with his history and other notes to a pulmonary specialist. The pulmonary specialist might forward his findings along with the previous documentation to a thoracic surgeon. All of this information may be shared with the hospital as well as with the patient himself.

A Personal Health Record is owned and maintained by the patient in a digital format, usually within a secure web portal. Immunizations, lab findings, imaging reports and other information obtained from medical providers might be found here. The patient might authorize others to access it or he might fax pertinent data to specific recipients. As EHRs and PHRs evolve, they begin to look alike – and who knows, perhaps at some point the only reason to have a PHR will be to record home-obtained information, such as glucose readings, weight, etc., updating the EHR as the base format in which health information will be “meaningfully used”.

Minding your “P’s” and “Q’s” is vitally important to your business and your security. Make sure that you understand the privacy protection requirements for each of these classifications of patient information and exercise the utmost care when this information is entrusted to you.