Google records more than a 1000 searches every month of people interested in free EMR software. Despite the common notion that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” physicians continuously seek ways to acquire the EMR software without spending a single penny.

There are three flavors of “free EMR” in the market offered namely: Open Souce EMR, Free versions of fully fledged EMR Software, and ad-supported free EMRs selling anonymous data. To fully understand these offerings, we will analyze them individually.

Open Source EMR

Open source EMR provides you with the full ownership of the code under GNU General Public License entitling you with the freedom to share and change all versions of the program to keep it as free software. You claim the license at zero cost. Though the software is free, there are points to consider including:

  1. What is the total cost of ownership? Usually the cost of license is 20% of the cost of implementing a client server version.
  2. What is the community size supporting ongoing development of that EMR?
  3. Will the open source EMR continue to meet varying Government regulations?
  4. What is the support structure present to help implement, train and support the EMR?

The leading advantage for open source software as documented in a survey by Computer Economics is as users quote ‘less dependence on vendors’.

It is essential to understand that EMR implemented in your clinic cannot easily be changed. Smaller clinics are recommended to stay away from open source EMR for the following reasons:

  1. No open source EMR system is commercially proven.
  2. Needed customizations and upgrade services entails additional costs.
  3. What is the current and future availability of required technical expertise at reasonable prices? Will you possess the time, patience and expertise to seek support for your changing requirements?

As long as a hospital holds significant amount of money to support the technology, and possesses expertise for customization to meet current and future requirements, the hospital will benefit in the long-run.

Free versions of fully blown EMR Software

There are vendors offering full EMR paid products and free EMR products at the same time. Later on you would discover that the free EMR entails costs when totaled levels off with the paid products. Additionally, free versions lack necessary features to function efficiently. Making matters worse, due to the ‘no obligation’ rule attached with a free EMR, you’re left to deal with the system’s problems on your own.

What is the financial model of free EMR software?

The third kind of free EMR software revolves on two aspects for its financial model:

  1. An advertisement supported EHR system aimed to sell to the medical community. It functions the same way free websites do. It’s up to you whether you’d be distracted or not.
  2. The vendor gains rights to sell your patients’ data after undergoing randomization and anonymity. A very sensitive issue.

Not incorporated with an integrated billing module, billing information needs to be exported on a periodic basis to your billing company or system. Also the EMR doesn’t synchronize with an in-house PM system.

For more information on this subject, please see the original article from RevenueXL Inc. at: