what is ehr meaning definition healthcare

What Is EHR? Electronic Health Record Systems Explained

What is an electronic health record system (EHR), and how is it helpful to healthcare providers? Let’s break down the most important things you need to know about EHR systems.

This article explains what EHR systems are and their impact on patient care.

EHR systems definition meaning

What Is EHR? Understanding The Basics

An EHR system is an electronic copy of an individual’s medical history. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says that an EHR system includes information on patient demographics, health problems, medications, vital signs, vaccinations, laboratory results, visits, and clinical notes.

Healthcare providers used to maintain these healthcare records in paper format. However, with increasing digitization in the healthcare industry, medical records are transitioning to electronic formats. More healthcare providers are adopting EHR systems. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 88.2% of office-based physicians use any EHR or electronic medical records (EMR) systems, while 77.8% of office-based physicians use certified versions.

EMR and EHR Meaning: Is There a Difference?

EHR systems and EMR systems are related concepts, but they should not be confused with one another. According to Forbes Advisor, their main distinction lies in their maintenance structure:

  • EHR system – interoperable and overseen by multiple providers
  • EMR system – the responsibility of one provider

Since multiple providers are responsible for maintaining an EHR system, you can expect it to contain more information. Another key difference is the interoperability of EHR systems, meaning various providers can access them, including affiliated laboratories and clinics. This feature allows ease of access to patient records.

The Most Common EHR System Providers

Today, various software providers offer EHR systems to hospitals and clinics. Definitive Healthcare lists the top EHR vendors ranked by market share as of August 16, 2023:

  1. Epic Systems Corporation
  2. Oracle Cerner
  4. Evident a CPSI Company
  6. Altera Digital Health, a Harris Company
  7. Vista
  8. Proprietary Software
  9. CliniComp

Epic Systems is the most widely used, with 2,709 installations. Taking the second and third spots are Oracle Cerner with 1,576 installations and MEDITECH with 896 installations.

What Is EHR? Electronic Health Record Systems Explained

Benefits of EHR Adoption in Healthcare

Now that you know what EHR systems are, let’s discuss their benefits. EHR systems offer numerous advantages for patients and healthcare providers. Here are some of them:


EHR systems make healthcare data readily available to providers and patients. Medical records can easily “move” with individuals who see multiple healthcare providers. 

Precision and accuracy

EHR systems are more accurate than paper-based records, lessening medical errors. You don’t need to decipher handwritten notes. They also offer standardized templates and documentation. 

Reduced delays

EHR systems hasten treatment and help healthcare professionals provide quality care. You can quickly bring up a patient’s medical records so doctors and patients can make better-informed decisions.

Challenges in Adopting an EHR System

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Cybersecurity Program lists several online threats that compromise EHR systems:

  • Phishing attacks: Cybercriminals can exploit emails and trick users into divulging their login passwords or installing malicious software
  • Malware: Cyberattackers can also deploy malicious software like viruses, worms, and trojans to harm the functionality of your EHR system, network, or device.
  • Ransomware: This type of malware encrypts your files so you can’t access them. The attacker then demands a “ransom” in the form of money or cryptocurrency in exchange for the decryption key.
  • Inadequate encryption: Encryption protects data in transit and at rest. Data becomes vulnerable to cyberattacks if your device and EHR system lack encryption.
  • Insider threats: Your staff’s negligence, carelessness, malicious intent, or lack of knowledge can cause unauthorized access to an EHR system.
What Is EHR? Electronic Health Record Systems Explained

Best Practices in Choosing and Implementing an EHR System

Since EHR systems are prone to cyber threats, make sure that you follow these guidelines:

Choose a HIPAA-compliant EHR system

Select a provider that offers advanced security measures such as strong encryption, role-based access controls, audit logs, data backup, disaster recovery, firewalls, and third-party auditing. The provider should also sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA), which is required under HIPAA.

Train staff on HIPAA rules 

HIPAA is a federal law that ensures data privacy and makes healthcare providers accountable for HIPAA violations. Conduct regular training to stay updated on HIPAA guidelines and avoid a data breach due to negligence or lack of knowledge.

Choose HIPAA-compliant integrations

EHR systems can also integrate with other providers, such as Internet fax, practice management software, radiology information systems, and pharmacy management software. Make sure that the software you choose also values security and HIPAA compliance. 

The Role of EHR in Redefining Health System Efficiency

What is an EHR system? Now that you have a clearer understanding of what it is, its challenges, and its benefits, it’s crucial to explore its impact on improving your organization’s overall efficiency further. As the healthcare industry witnesses a digital shift, the adoption of EHR systems is becoming more widespread. 

It’s safe to assume that more healthcare providers will rely on these systems for effective data management. Given its potential to streamline processes and reduce errors, the widespread use of EHR systems can significantly change how healthcare organizations operate.

Kent Ca√Īas

Kent is a content strategist currently specializing in HIPAA-compliant online fax. Her expertise in this field allows her to provide valuable insights to clients seeking a secure and efficient online fax solution.

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