BLOG: Electronic Health Records: What are HIT, EMR and EHR?

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doctor-patientRecently, my personal friend and mentor was taken to the hospital with a stroke. He went to one of the Cleveland Clinic’s emergency rooms, was transported to the main campus via ambulance and, while in transport, all his health information was uploaded to the doctors waiting at the main campus. By the time he arrived, they had all his current information and medical history available to make the best lifesaving decision. As we know with a stroke, time is of the essence to give a chance for full recovery. A month later he has almost fully recovered.

Likewise, my son’s pediatrician is part of the Akron Children’s Hospital network. He was hospitalized in Canton at the pediatric wing of Aultman Hospital then transferred to Akron. All three locations had access to his chart at the same time with full history, and I, as his parent, am able to look up his records on their portal.

What are these new technologies and how do they help consumers?

The easiest way to describe Electronic Health Records (EHRs) would be that they are a digital version of a patient’s paper chart, but with full utilization they can be so much more than that. They allow medical professionals to collect and centralize all health information, including medications, radiology images, lab results and immunization records just to mention a few. EHRs also aim to aid the clinicians with their workflow, provide clinical decision support and create efficiencies.

By now, probably you have encountered the use of Electronic Health Record (EHR) applications at some point in your personal life. Maybe it happened at a recent trip to a dentist, primary care physician or at a visit to the ER or the hospital. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are often mentioned interchangeably, and, for the purpose of this post, I will not cover the differences in detail, but typically EHRs offer more than EMRs.

Health Information Technology (HIT) has been in use for many years to support the health information management across different computer systems and organizations. It covers a wide range of applications from Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) – which can be used to order lab tests or prescribe medication electronically from the person’s chart directly to the pharmacy – through Patient Portals and Health Information Exchanges (HIE) to Telemedicine. In recent years, the federal government has increasingly supported requiring the use of HIT. It was started by President Bush in 2004 by signing the Health Information Technology Plan and was continued by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 signed by President Obama. ARRA introduced about $20 billion in incentives through meaningful use, as a part of the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH). Today, nearly all hospitals are using EHRs and connecting their systems via HIEs because of that.

For more information, please see the government’s HIT website »

So what does StarkMHAR do to help Stark County residents? In 2011, StarkMHAR and the six largest Stark County provider agencies established the Northeast Ohio Behavioral Health Information Consortium (NEOBHIC) and purchased a shared electronic health records system. With the integration of behavioral health into primary health care, StarkMHAR and its agencies are well positioned to exchange information with local hospitals. NEOBHIC has been recognized by OhioMHAS as a project worth monitoring as a recommended way of incorporating EHRs into behavioral healthcare. As our local IT consortium grows and supports more counties, the objective remains simple: that the people of Stark County have access to a state-of-the-art mental health and recovery system.

Learn more about NEOBHIC »

About Sandor Gyarmati

Sandor Gyarmati is an Information Technology expert with more than 16 years in the IT industry. His professional experience includes project management, software development, network infrastructure in Government, Non-Profit, Healthcare, multinational communications and information technology manufacturers. He holds a Master’s Degree in Health Informatics and a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Information Systems. Sandor is currently the Health Information Technology Manager at Heartland East where he started work in 2007. He has been leading the NEOBHIC consortium’s NextGen implementations and support for the last five years.