Many of you have likely noticed that I like to use the terms EMR and EHR almost synonymously. In fact, it’s kind of a game for me now. I generally try to stick with one term for a certain blog post, but I even break that rule on occasion. I guess the thing is that it really doesn’t matter to me at all.

I don’t like to debate the meanings and definitions of words since it doesn’t matter how you define a term. Instead, I just try and communicate the substance of the issues. Words matter as part of that communication, but whether I call it an EMR or an EHR doesn’t change the value of what I’m trying to communicate (at least 99% of the time).

There are a few rare cases when I do differentiate. For example, I would likely never say that you need a “certifed EMR” to get the available HITECH Act stimulus money. I wouldn’t do so because the legislation specifically says “certified EHR” and so I’d respect the verbiage. Although, these cases are few and far between.

Plus, I try to be the voice of the physician. I’d bet if you asked most physicians the difference between an EMR and EHR they’d likely laugh, walk away or know what an EMR was but ask you to define the term EHR. I, like most physicians, don’t care what you call it. They (and I) care more about the substance of selecting, implementing, using, maximizing, enjoying and even sometimes enduring an EMR or EHR.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Indeed true, these days EMR and EHR are interchangeable terms. Although there is a slight difference considered by some. They say that EMR is more of a patient medical record managed by hospitals and clinics and forms the source of EHR. EHR is more of personal health record of a patient.

  • Yes, I went through the link you sent and agree to the same. EHR would provide a comprehensive view whereas a specialist would be happy using EMR.

  • Way I see it the EMR focuses on documenting the medical factors of a specific individual … whereas EHR is broader and documents all wellness related health factors of the same individual. Some of these factors might be from outside the normal purview of the primary care physician. Examples might include dietary, optical, dental health, rehabilitation.

    Reason PCPs may not be able to differentiate between the two is part of our national wellness problem.

    Perhaps the more inclusive term ought to be EWR … for electronic wellness record. I’m making all this up … so don’t rant. I just had to find a way to differentiate in my mind the extent of what I expect of each.

    What should be evident though is that the hospital record is a secondary record to the master EHR maintained at the PCP level. Hospitals are secondary level facilities and need to support the primary picture that is available to the PCP. This also includes the inputs of specialists to the individual’s health record. As it stands today … none of the records at the primary care, secondary care, or specialists is integrated into a single integrated pack.

  • For your readers who like their definitions straight-up, here they are:

    Electronic Medical Record (EMR)
    An electronic record of health-related information on an individual that can be created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff within one health care organization.

    Electronic Health Record (EHR)
    An electronic record of health-related information on an individual that conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards and that can be created, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff across more than one health care organization.

  • “An electronic record of health-related information on an individual that conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards”

    So basically it’s good that I still prefer to use EMR. Since no one has an EHR by that definition. Mostly because there aren’t any “nationally recognized interoperability standards.” A couple that are trying to be nationally recognized, but still have a long way to go.

    Of course, then we could debate the term nationally recognized if you want;-)

  • @DonB
    As you described it is how most people look at it. They look at the actual functions of an EHR/EMR rather than relying on some acronym to tell them what functions it might or might not have.

  • I’ll second the Carol kudos (hm, that sounded better before I actually typed it), those are great definitions. I generally stick to using “EHR” because that’s how it’s referred to in the HITECH legislation, but I’m not married to the term. I see both used interchangeably online.

  • Will be in Vegas! The “straight-up” reference in my initial comment was an inside joke. Both Roberta and I will be in Henderson (what, not enough hotels to give a good deal on the strip?) for this conference.

  • I thought Roberta wasn’t going to make it. This is going to be interesting. Plus, don’t be knocking Henderson. That’s where I live. I told you I’m literally down the street from where the conference is being held.

Click here to post a comment