What is my electronic health record vs medical record?

Updated: May 25

Records are moving digital but what is the difference between the two types, why does it matter, and what's in the future?

Electronic my health records and Hira

Electronic medical record (EMR): patient chart from a single practice including all medical and treatment history. It's exclusive usually to the single office. Electronic health record (EHR): contains records from multiple locations to give a holistic view of someone's health. It will travel with you no matter which location you visit - doctors, laboratories, specialists, etc. Moving everything online can be a daunting task, but it's well past the time. There are so many benefits over paper records and individual offices keeping separate medical records. I'd like to share a few of my favourites with you that I am excited about:

  1. Improved patient care and health

  2. Improved decision making by doctors

  3. Better care plans

  4. Efficient and cost-effective

Here are a few real-life examples to put it into context.

You have a serious infection and must be taken to the hospital. Unknown to the doctors, you have a penicillin allergy - but you can't tell them, you're very ill and delirious as sepsis has set in. If the hospital has identified you, they will be able to pick up on that allergy and avoid penicillin, saving your life.

Digital delivery of all lab results means less time waiting for an answer and starting treatment. There is no delay of the lab results being faxed or emailed to the doctor's office, then needing to be uploaded into their individual system, and then notify you.

Also, consider when it's time to leave a hospital and go home and you require follow-up care like physio or specialist visits to track recovery. Since everyone can access the same records, no time needs to be wasted waiting for records to be sent around and information will not get lost.

You will be able to access your own records and medication to take care of your health, too. Anything that happens to you medically would be available on your phone for you to track and review.

I can't wait to get easy access to my health record!

Most of you in the tech community will know about the plans for HIRA already, and how the Ministry of Health is striving for a holistic ecosystem of data and digital services versus just single electronic health records for patients. It will be a national health information platform accessible by all practitioners as well as the patients. Imagine not having to ask for a printed copy of your medical records anymore (and lugging around a file folder full of old documents...ugh).

EHR is basically the bigger, better brother of the EMR, but the record itself is not enough. Hira will take that technology and turn it into a system that can be implemented nationwide.

Great! When do we get Hira?

Hira is going to be released in waves. Vulnerable and small non-profits will be prioritised in the whole process. With a phased rollout, we will see the first part come to life in a few months starting with access to basic patient information for some select organisations. Yes, your past two years of COVID vaccinations and tests included.

Next up the second release will allow updates to user contacts and affiliation profiles and access to contract tracing services. We will have to wait until August for the full public Hira launch and international patient record.

Hira health record meeting

The goal is to focus on laying down strong foundational elements for the health system in order to have a bright digital future.

There is also only the first round of funding available at this time of a cool $385 mil. People like you and me won't be able to access it fully until the second round kicks in.

I think it's a great way to get the ball rolling and tweak the system as it goes, testing small pieces of it and giving access to those that need it as soon as they can. It means we wait a bit longer, but I certainly don't want them to cut any corners due to budget concerns.

New Zealand's digital landscape will change

Part of digital transformation is knowing that it is a journey, not a light switch moment. Guiding these changes over time will allow the health sector to react to issues quickly, and make sure each piece of the puzzle is created and planned well. Especially in health, it's ethical to focus on the most affected communities first and get them the support they need.

Overall, Hira is going to most positively affect those people that have barriers to accessing health systems in the first place. New Zealand has very remote, rural areas that will benefit from electronic health records.

I can see this being a great example for other sectors that want to move into the future with their information systems. It could spark innovation in other developers and project managers to start a new project and make a change.

If you're feeling inspired, we want to jump on board to help you think strategically about how digital can work for you. Let us know what you've got in mind.

Danika Ciullo is the Marketing Manager at CIO Studio. For a more in-depth strategic approach to your business processes and digital strategy, you can visit our contact page and choose the option that works best for you.


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