How Do Electronic Medical Records Help Cancer Care?

September 21, 2017
Nicole Van Hoey, PharmD

What is an electronic medical record, an electronic health record, and a personal health record?

  • Electronic medical records (EMRs) offer a digital way for providers to store important information about your medical care.share on twitter They can be easily accessed and read by all members of the health care team, wherever they are, as long as they are members of the same clinic or hospital.

  • Electronic health records (EHRs) are different. EHRs are designed to show the total health of the patient. An EHR can be shared with other medical practices or hospitals. You can review the information in your own EHR.

  • Personal health records (PHRs) contain the same types of information as an EHR. However, PRHs are designed to be set up, accessed, and managed by patients. Often, a person can manage their own PHR through a patient portal. In the portal, patients can read test results, enter their own health history, download health records, and more.

Why do EMRs exist?

EMRs are designed to replace paper medical records. They contain your legal health information, like test results or prescriptions, and recorded details of office visits entered by your clinician. EMRs can help members of the health care team in the following ways:

  • Patient information is easily found.

  • Information can be shared easier and faster.

  • Documents are easier to read because they are not handwritten.

  • Files are stored and backed up, so they won’t get lost.

EMRs benefit patients, too, because they:

  • Prevent medical errors. Typed records are easier to read than handwritten notes and prescriptions. EMRs may also warn members of the health care team if the patient is allergic to a certain medication or if a medication a patient is taking could have a dangerous interaction with another medication.

  • Shorten wait times for office visits, lab tests, or prescriptions. Patients don’t have to fill out the same paperwork for every visit, and members of the health care team don’t have to search through paper files for the information they need.

  • Give you more time with your clinician. When your health care team has easy access to all of your medical history, they have more time to answer your questions.

Who owns my EMR?

Like the paper records they often replace, EMRs are owned by your doctor, hospital, or other care provider. According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), though, your medical records cannot be shared without your permission. Under HIPAA, you are allowed to see or have a copy of your medical records.

Are EMRs safe and secure?

To access your medical details in an EMR, a provider must log into a secure computer system and use a password. Nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, physician assistants, and other employees of a medical practice may be able to view your EMR. Hospitals, cancer centers, and clinics have rules in place that require staff with access to EMRs to keep your information confidential.

As medicine becomes more personalized but also more global, providers from all over the world might, with your approval, be able to connect with your doctor for the best care by sharing, securely, your EMR.