EMR/EHR vs. PHR, ad nauseam

Mainstream media still don’t get it. Personal health records and electronic health records/electronic medical records are not the same thing. Yet, on the agenda for next month’s annual Association of Health Care Journalists conference is a panel entitled “Personal electronic medical records: What will consumers need to know?”

The meeting is here in Chicago next month, but I already have plans to be out of town. I’m debating whether to change those plans to attend this meeting, because there are some sessions that could be of value to me. I may want to go just to be a voice for reporting on health IT. The lack of focus on health IT was what made me quit AHCJ four years ago.

Every time I see the phrase, “electronic personal health records,” my blood boils. Last time was this Dec. 2, 2009, article in something called eSecurity Planet that erroneously said the federal stimulus was paying for “electronic personal health records.” I used this story as an example for a yet-to-be published piece I’ve written for Reporting on Health, a project of the USC Annenberg School and California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship.

For the record, I define an EHR as, at least in theory, a comprehensive digital collection of information about an individual’s health and medical status that encompasses multiple care settings. EMR means a record tied to a single facility or organization. The two phrases often are used interchangeably, and I think that’s OK for now.

A PHR, to me, is a record that patients can view, update and control access to. It is a subset of an EHR, not a synonym.