EMR vs EHR vs PHR (Differences, Advantages & Disadvantages)

Thursday, April 21, 2022
Michael Scheiner

There have been important developments in health information technology (or “health IT”) when it comes to electronically managing health information. This is great news for the healthcare industry, as it helps healthcare organizations provide better and faster medical service for both inpatients and outpatients using the most up-to-date and accurate patient information.

However, when it comes to electronic patient records, we now have three similar but distinct acronyms to deal with. So the question is, what’s the difference between EMR vs EHR? And then, what’s PHR?



What is the difference between EMR and EHR systems?

The difference between an electronic medical record (EMR) and an electronic health record (EHR) is that whereas an EMR deals only with a specific patient’s records with one clinic, an EHR covers all of a patient’s data with every medical institution with which they have files.

To be more specific, an EMR system is a computerized record of what used to be paper records. It contains informatics mostly regarding a patient’s care with a specific medical organization or clinic, or even a single medical event like a procedure.

An EHR system is similar to EMR except the scope goes beyond one single event or clinic to encompass all patient data across several or all clinicians or healthcare providers the patient deals with. The idea is to streamline medical data sharing. 

Both are patient portals that serve as decision-support systems, which refer to information sharing systems. Both EMR and EHR are only accessible by medical professionals and not the patient. In both cases, this clinical data must have the characteristic of interoperability. This means that the medical information exchange is made possible using the same standards and styles so that different hospitals, doctors and clinics can use it.


EMR vs EHR vs PHR comparison

Electronic medical records software (EMR)


The first meaningful use of an EMR system is that it gives clinics complete records on a patient’s medical history, their upcoming appointments and procedures, as well as payment information. This leads to much fewer medical errors, which in turn lowers the cost of operation for a clinic, partly due to requiring fewer administrative staff. Workflows can be part of an EMR to take over easy tasks like sending out appointment reminders or invoices.

Other advantages are that information is safer in an EMR system than it would be with handwritten records. On top of that, less space is needed to store medical records, as digital data takes up much less room than filing cabinets.


The disadvantages of an EMR are firstly that these records are limited to specific medical institutions and clinics. This means there is more administrative work that needs to be done when a patient moves or transfers clinics. On top of that, EMR records are often impossible for patients and customers to understand. This means patients may feel their privacy is insecure, or that they are in the dark about their medical conditions.

Other disadvantages of an EMR system for a clinic is that it costs money, as well as taking up time for the staff to learn the system and to migrate old paper charts into the platform. 

What’s in an EMR

  • Customer medical history

  • Patient demographic

  • Immunization data

  • Radiology records

  • Test results

  • Lab results

Electronic health record software (EHR)


The primary advantage of an EHR over an EMR is that it allows different medical institutions and clinics to share information. This is convenient for the patient who may have to move or change clinics as it reduces the need to repeat tests or convey information.


Like EMR, the data in an EHR is still incomprehensible to the patient, which could still lead to the patient’s sense that their privacy is not secure.

Additionally, there is always the chance that relying on EHR information to be interoperable between different clinics will come short. This means that certain medical establishments might find the data in an EHR file lacking or irrelevant to their specific medical services.

What’s in an EHR

  • General medical history

  • Immunization data

  • Radiology records

  • Test results

  • Lab results

  • Patient demographics

Personal health record software (PHR)


With PHRs, the patient has complete control and ownership of their own medical data. This means the patient is free to choose among a wider variety of healthcare businesses or clinics when seeking treatments or procedures. 

PHRs also give one a better sense of their finances when it comes to their health, whether it is regarding their medical insurance plans, or about the cost of treatments or services that are not covered by insurance. This can also lead to people being in more control over how to plan their healthy lifestyles and when to elect to have certain treatments or procedures.


Obviously, the number of disadvantages to PHRs are that they are not used by clinics, hospitals or other medical institutions. Since this is meant to be comprehensible only to the individual, the health-related information in a PHR is not readily useful by medical professionals. In other words, PHRs are no substitute for EMRs por EHRs.

What’s in a PHR

  • Personal medical history

  • Home monitoring devices

  • Immunization history

  • Vaccination records (eg: flu or Covid vaccines)

  • Mental health and wellness information

  • Personal care settings


Legal institutions surrounding electronic medical records

All Health IT products are regulated by the ONC, or the Office of the National Coordinator for health information technology. On top of that, there is the HIMSS, or Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, which also provides regulatory services to improve the quality of healthcare tech products. Many of the best EMRs and EHRs are recognized by the ONC and HIMSS. 

The HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is there to make sure the insurance side of these systems remains fair and keeps patient data private and secure. Additionally, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (or HITECH act) further ensured the proper use of EMR and EHR when it comes to administering and managing Medicare and Medicaid, ensuring maximum payments for those who implement recognized EMR or EHR systems. 

Fewer regulatory bodies are relevant, however, when it comes to PHRs. This is likely the case because the stakeholders are none other than the individual patents themselves and not registered clinics or other healthcare businesses.


Which is right for you, PHR, EHR or EMR? Final takeaways

As an individual, a PHR is the way to go to keep personal track of your medical and healthcare data. If you run a hospital, clinic or other kind of healthcare business, you’ll likely want to have an EMR and possibly an EHR as well.



Is Epic an EMR or EHR?

Epic is a patient portal software with many tools for healthcare professionals and specialists. It is an EHR system (electronic health record) and not an EMR system (electronic medical record), meaning that it prioritizes interoperable data between hospitals and clinics for day-to-day procedures and operations.

Do hospitals use EMR or EHR?

According to the ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for health information technology), more than 95% of hospitals use an electronic health record (EHR) system. What’s more, a high percentage of hospitals and private healthcare businesses also use an electronic medical record (EMR) system to manage patient data. 

What is the difference between EMR and EHR quizlet?

The difference between an EMR and an EHR system according to quizlet is that while an EMR manages the healthcare and medical data for patients and procedures for individual hospitals, clinics or healthcare businesses, an EHR focuses on the interoperable sharing of that data between institutions and businesses. 

Is Cerner an EMR or EHR?

Cerner (now owned by Oracle) makes many solutions for the healthcare industry, including software for medical businesses, patients, insurance companies and the government. Included in their products is an EHR system (electronic health record system). Cerner is not, however, an EMR system (electronic medical record system).