Live from AHIMA: Differentiating between EMR and ECM


While mingling with several other attendees before we all headed to the airport to return to our respective cities, I had two lasting impressions from this year’s AHIMA convention. First, there is an increasing number of people who are aware of the differences between an electronic medical record (EMR) and an enterprise content management (ECM) solution – and they appreciate the true distinctions between the two.

Not only are there distinctions, but there’s a hierarchy. And ECM is at the top. That’s because ECM is the core solution to support health information management (HIM) and provide a complete patient record.

What makes ECM solutions more essential than EMRs? Workflow.

Workflow is absolutely essential in managing chart completion. By automatically forwarding accurate and complete documents, information and images, workflow keeps things moving while notifying all stakeholders. Without manual involvement.

My second impression from the show is the greater understanding of the differences between a document management solution and an ECM solution. Document management, while important, focuses on capturing and storing unstructured data – but not much more – to provide scan-store-retrieve functionality. ECM, however, builds on this initial technology to incorporate that all-important business process tool of workflow, adding automation and integration capabilities that document management solutions simply don’t have.

Unlike a document management solution, ECM is equipped to serve as the complete legal medical record for release of information processes. That’s why it’s at the top of the information management hierarchy.

Now, there is still a lot of education that must occur before every healthcare organization understands just how and why an ECM solution is an essential component of the larger electronic health record (EHR). It’ll take a while to view ECM in a similar light as the EMR, but it’s promising that this year had such a focus on imaging and capturing data. As the availability of data increases – some might say explodes – managing that data increases in importance. And understanding the technological solutions that can assist in data management is a giant step in the right direction.

To learn more about ECM and how it’s helping other healthcare organizations improve their operations, visit


Renee Close

Renee Close is the global healthcare marketing manager at Hyland, creator of OnBase. Prior to joining Hyland in 2011, Renee held marketing roles in the legal and manufacturing industries. She... read more about: Renee Close

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