Here are some more of the most common terms (and definitions) you'll run across when evaluating an electronic medical record or electronic health record software system.
Client Server: A form of distributed computing where a dedicated heavy-duty server computer handles most of the processing tasks while less powerful client computers access and share files, programs and computing power. A network located at the customer's site connects the server (the big computer) and the "clients" (the smaller computers). Client server systems are commonly found in larger physician office practices and hospitals.
Clinical Information System: Relating exclusively to the information regarding the clinical care of a patient, instead of the administrative data. Most EMRs/EHRs contain clinical information systems, whereas most practice management software systems contain administrative data. Many vendor solutions integrate the two types of data together for physicians.
Computerized Patient Record: The previous name for an EMR or EHR.
Data compression: A method that reduces the volume of data by more efficiently encoding the information. This process could save the user time and money by lowering transmission times, minimizing bandwidth requirements and reducing storage space.
Data Warehouse: A large database that stores information like a data repository, but also allows the user to access data for population analysis. Such a warehouse is most often used by physicians and policymakers to identify trends and support the
creation of knowledge - for example, to show a physician how many of his patients have received a flu shot in the past 12 months. Reports from the data warehouse are normally generated at scheduled intervals.
Electronic Data Exchange: A direct exchange of data between two computers via the internet or other network, using shared data formats and standards. In healthcare, the most common frames of reference of EDI are electronic claims processing and electronic prescribing (e-prescribe).
Integration: The task of ensuring that all of the elements of an information system (EHR/EMR) communicate and act as a uniform entity. An integrated system maintains one database, stores data in the same format, and utilizes the same processing features. Be wary of electronic medical record systems with poor integration features!
Operating System: The software program that controls the power and logics of all operations of a computer system. Examples include Microsoft Windows and MacOS for Macintosh.
Portal/Patient Portal: The entry point for authorized persons to access secure data using the Internet. A patient portal allows a patient to access the physician practice via the Internet for the purposes of communication, scheduling, and/or accessing health information.
Redundancy: Two computer servers that simultaneously and automatically store identical information. Each server can be used as a back-up for the other in the event of system failure. In an EHR or EMR, redundancy is a GOOD thing. Look for medical software systems that have some sort of built-in redundancy.
Registry: A software application that allows a physician to record and track information for subpopulations of patients, especially those with chronic diseases or requiring preventive care.
Workflow Automation: A type of medical software that automates workflow and re-engineers processes such that productivity gains and improved customer service are realized. Look for EMRs with robust workflow automation - that's the feature that promises to save physicians lots of time and money.