March 6, 2011

Electronic Medical Records & Electronic Health Records

by Lean Fox

Recently I have noticed that many in the media and healthcare industry (myself included) use the terms electronic medical record (EMR) and electronic health record (EHR) interchangeably. However, these terms describe completely different concepts, so what the heck is the difference? Off to Wikipedia we go…no not this time. Don’t worry I’m not going to go all techno geeky on you. All you need to remember is this, an EMR is a more silo’d record of a single diagnosis; while the EHR provides a more comprehensive view of the patient’s health and history by pulling information from several systems or multiple EMRs. EMRs will never reach their full potential without interoperable EHRs in place. It’s important to understand the differences, and to reduce confusion in the market.

Lean thinking can assist you in the selection, implementation, and adoption of an EMR/EHR for physician practice, service line and/or hospital.  Before selecting and deploying an EMR/EHR, you really need to assess the current process flow first to understand how your team works and uses data. Too often we introduce software solutions to get us out of a paper mess and simply end up with an electronic mess that is less flexible. Prior to selecting an EMR/EHR, we recommend that our clients:


  • Map out the current state to identify the waste in the process.
  • Agree on what waste needs to be first.
  • Create a stop, start, continue document that outlines what the team is going to stop doing, what they are going to start doing differently and what will stay the same moving forward.


All of this helps shape the vision for change and prepares the staff, physicians and others for the deployment of an EMR/EHR. Physician practices, service lines and hospitals should only engage a software solution where it adds value. Your organization has specific characteristics and behaviors that make your business unique.  You need to fully understand them before committing to an expensive software system that won’t or can’t adapt to your organization. Here is an interesting story from Fast Co Design on an EHR deployment.


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