Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems are multi-functional. EMRs typically document patients’ past clinical history and family history; capture encounter information; create prescriptions and track current/past medications, allergies; act as a repository for laboratory and other diagnostic data and, in some cases, varying degrees of clinical decision support tools, such as checking for medication interactions or some practice management functionality, such as appointment scheduling and master patient index. In recent years, a broader model for implementing these systems has been referred to as electronic health record (EHR) systems. According to one of our thought leaders, David Kibbe of the AAFP, EHR refers to an integrated system that makes an appropriate level of medical or clinical data available to both providers and patients, facilitates reporting of medical events for public health purposes, includes a secure messaging system for placing pharmacy or laboratory orders and integrates with a health center’s practice management system.
In contrast to practice management, there are very few stand alone outpatient clinics that have any form of EMR. A recent survey of 6,000 members by the AAFP revealed that only 3-5 percent of their members have any type of electronic health record while between 10 and 24 percent have some form of electronic medical record. As with practice management, the vendor landscape for electronic health records and electronic medical records is fragmented, with the substantial majority of regional vendors having fewer than fifty clinic clients.