EHR vs. EMR vs. PHR – Explanation of the Differences

Angus Roberts

The recent years have seen healthcare providers shift to medical software to manage their records. This move comes with numerous benefits, such as providing more accurate patient information, which increases efficiency and enables providers to offer quality healthcare. As a result, the demand for these technologies is rising with the global electronic health records market projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.2 percent and hit 42.2 billion US dollars by 2028.

Understanding the different types of electronic records management systems available in the healthcare industry is critical, as you are then able to pick the right tools for various needs.

Let’s  outline the differences between EHR, EMR, and PHR, which are the most common types of systems that are currently used in this fast growing and sensitive market.

What is EHR software?

Electronic Health Records (EHR) software is an inter-organizational system that contains the digital version of patients’ medical history. It is a real-time, electronic patient-records platform that shares information instantly and securely with authorized users. An EHR system is designed to provide more than just the standard clinical data that a single physician collects. It streamlines and automates health facilities’ workflows by providing access to information and evidence-based tools that healthcare providers use to make informed decisions about a patient.

EHR solutions enable healthcare providers to share patient information with other providers within the same organization or outside the organization. They help in improving the quality of patient care by providing better access to information and better coordination of care. In addition, EHRs help in reducing the cost of healthcare by eliminating duplicate tests and reducing paperwork.

What is EMR software

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) software is a local and internal system of a healthcare facility. It contains digital versions of a patient’s medical records that would otherwise exist on a piece of paper or a paper chart. EMRs allow healthcare organizations, such as clinicians’ offices, clinics, or hospitals to organize their medical records internally.  There are different EMRs that are suitable for different practices such as ophthalmology EMRs and pediatrics EMRs,

When distinguishing EHR vs. EMR, it is critical to note that EMR is an internal system restricted for use within the healthcare organization. In contrast, an EHR is an inter-organizational system that provides information to authorized users outside the healthcare facility.

What is PHR software?

Personal Health Record (PHR) software is a patient-centered system designed to be set up, managed, and owned by patients. It contains information such as medical history, immunizations, allergies, diagnoses, treatments, medications, and a healthcare provider’s personal information. The patient collects this information from many different sources.

PHR systems can be used to track medical appointments and test results, store immunization records, and maintain a list of medications. PHR software is typically accessed through a web-based portal or an app on a mobile device. Some PHR software programs also offer features such as the ability to schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, and message a healthcare provider. By giving patients the ability to track and manage their own health information, PHR software can help to empower individuals and improve communication between patients and their care team.

Key differences between EHR, EMR and PHR systems

EHR systems are typically ideal for coordinating care between multiple providers. EMRs are typically used internally by hospitals and clinics to track patient medical history, diagnoses, medications, and test results.They offer many of the same benefits as EHR systems, but they are not as comprehensive. PHR systems are designed for use by patients. They allow patients to store their own health information and share it with their doctors as needed. What about in terms of data ownership? For EHRs, data is shared among providers, data is owned by individual healthcare organizations in EMRs while the data for PHRs is owned and controlled by the patients.

Here is a detailed look at the differences:

1. Type of information

EMRs store information relating to a patient’s current health condition. The information in EMR is similar to the one on a paper chart during a visit to a physician. It will contain the patient’s medical history, current diagnoses, laboratory and test results, treatment plan, and medication relating to the current condition. EMRs contain notes that allow physicians to diagnose and treat patients.

EHRs contain digital records of an individual’s health-related information. This information is not collected on a single visit but over time. It includes medical history, immunization dates, allergies, diagnoses, laboratory and test results, radiology images, treatment plans, and medication. This information is based on a patient’s past and current health conditions.

Patients input their medical histories into personal health records (PHRs). The information may include data from several visits to healthcare facilities in addition to data from other sources such as laboratories and pharmacies.

2. End-user

The information collected and stored by EMRs is used by healthcare professionals in one healthcare facility or department. Such information is not shared with other facilities.

The data in EHRs is used by multiple providers across different healthcare facilities, laboratories, and pharmacies. The information is stored in an inter-organizational system that allows multiple authorized users.

A PHR stores information exclusively for the patient’s use, unlike an EHR or EMR. It provides patients with a 360-degree view of their life, allowing them to make better decisions about their personal health.

3. Information access

Only healthcare professionals within a single facility can access the information in an EMR. Authorized physicians within the facility can gather, create, manage, and consult this information. An EMR is restricted to a single healthcare provider and thus doesn’t support information exchange.

In contrast, authorized medical professionals from multiple healthcare organizations can gather, create, manage, and consult information from an EHR system. Multiple healthcare facilities have access to the information in the EHR system. This makes EHRs interoperable, meaning they support information exchange.

Patients gather, create, and manage all the information in a PHR system. Medical professionals cannot access information in patients’ personal accounts.

4. Information source

The information in an EMR is sourced from a single healthcare provider. The healthcare provider collects information and stores it in the EMR. This information will not be available to other healthcare providers. Similarly, the physician will not see any information from other providers.

On the other hand, EHRs source information from different healthcare providers. These systems eliminate the need to carry papers when visiting a different provider because they can access it from the relevant EHR. An EHR will contain information from all the healthcare providers that a patient has visited, as long as that facility is interconnected with the facility the patient is visiting.

PHRs also get information from different sources. Since patients key in the data themselves, they can enter data from healthcare providers like hospitals, laboratories, and pharmacies. PHR systems can also contain information from home monitoring devices, such as smartwatches. Finally, patients can manually enter data like life choices and over-the-counter medications.

5. Movement of patient records

EMRs don’t allow patients’ records to move outside the specific healthcare provider that owns the system. IN other words these records are restricted to a single practice.

EHRs allow patients to travel with their digital records to other healthcare providers, specialists, laboratories, and pharmacies. Furthermore, they can move across physical boundaries easily, especially when seeking treatment in different regions or countries.

PHRs are managed by patients, making it easier to move with the information wherever the patient goes.

The table below summarizes the key differences above between EMR vs. EHR vs.PHR.

Information type Contains information regarding the patient’s current condition and medical history from a single practice Contains information on the patient’s medical history from all providers the patient has visited Contains the medical history as keyed in by the patients themselves.
End-user Healthcare professionals from a single healthcare provider. Healthcare professionals from multiple healthcare entities Patients themselves
Information access Information can only be accessed by the provider that gathers and manages it Multiple providers can access all the medical data gathered from several providers Data gathered and managed by the patient.
Information source Information is sourced from a single healthcare provider Information is sourced from multiple healthcare providers Information is sourced from multiple healthcare providers and patients themselves.
Movement of patients’ records Records are restricted to a single practice Patients can travel with their records to different providers Patients can also move with their records

Similarities between EHR, EMR and PHR

When distinguishing EHR vs. EMR vs. PHR, it is important to note their similarities. Here are the top similarities.

  1. EHRs, EMRs, and PHRs are data repositories. This means they are data tools specifically designed for gathering, storing, analyzing, and reporting purposes.
  2. They all handle medical records. Although EHR and PHR systems don’t have the word “medical” in them, all three handle patients’ medical records.
  3. They handle digital data. Despite being data repositories, they don’t handle any paperwork. In fact, they are ideal solutions for reducing and eliminating the use of paperwork in the healthcare industry. They store, manage, and share information in electronic format. The use of electronic data guarantees hassle-free healthcare records management.
  4. They are private and confidential in nature. Patient records are sensitive and must be safeguarded regardless of their format. And although electronic records are a step ahead compared to their paper counterparts, security and privacy challenges are serious concerns. Fortunately there are serious compliance standards such as HIPAA which provide guidelines on Protected Health Information (PHI) and how it can be disclosed and used.
  5. They all support cloud technology. Cloud storage technology offers numerous benefits that EHRs, EMRs, and PHRs can leverage. This technology offers unlimited storage capacity and allows users to access records from anywhere at any time. They also ensure that medical records are safe from data loss due to natural disasters like floods and fire.


Electronic medical records (EMRs), electronic health records (EHRs), and patient health records (PHRs) are all forms of electronic record systems that are used in healthcare. However, they are different, and it helps to understand the differences and similarities that we’ve just seen as this is critical to healthcare providers and other users including patients. Proper understanding also assists facility managers to determine which, between EHR and EMR, is the best for their organizations. The best EMR systems should be very easy to use and secure.

Previous Post

Best Ophthalmology EMR

Next Post

HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage: Guide