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The Top 7 Free and Open Source EMR Software Products

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As a doctor you may not be able to completely avoid burdensome healthcare regulations or government EHR mandates, but you can at least minimize the cost of those mandates by implementing one of the many free Electronic Medical Records software options.

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Below are the seven best free EMR products you should be considering.

1. Practice Fusion

This is the gorilla in the room for free EMR products. Practice Fusion has over 17,000 customers and more than 100,000 users, and is pretty much the first name you’ll hear whenever someone mentions “free” and “EMR” in the same sentence. It’s a web-based EMR that targets everyone from individual doctors, to small practices, and up to large medical groups. The software is completely free, and is ad-supported (meaning you will see relevant ads within the software). If you’d like to turn off the ads, you can request an ad-free version starting at $100 per month. Billing is not included in the software and going with one of Practice Fusion’s integrated billing partners can be an additional fee.

Practice Fusion Screenshot

Pros/cons

Practice Fusion is backed with hundreds of millions in venture funding, and that money has been put to good use with the modern interface and intuitive design. The software is easy to use and simple to get started on. Full support is included and can supply great “hand holding” for those new to electronic health systems and those just switching. It’s also got an array of slick pre-made templates and will integrate with tablets. Practice Fusion is certified for Meaningful Use for 2014, so you also qualify for EHR stimulus funds if you use it.

All that said, the product doesn’t allow for much customization beyond templates, and users have reported issues with interfacing with LabCorp and Quest Laboratory for lab results. Additionally, lack of support for recurring appointments and the use of Adobe Flash (hampering access on mobile devices) may also cause frustration.

2. Kareo EHR

Kareo has offered medical billing software for years, but only recently started offering a free, web-based EHR software product. It’s built on clinical knowledge bases from Epocrates and targets smaller physician practices and group practices. Kareo EHR operates on a “freemium” model, meaning the EHR software is free, and the company hopes you go on to buy their other, premium, products like practice management and billing.

EMR

Pros/cons

This is another slick, cloud-based EMR, and the interface is modern and easy to use. Additionally, Kareo EHR is “mobile by design” and plays very well with tablets like iPads (it uses a native mobile app available in the Apple App Store) and smartphones. The software is Meaningful Use certified as well, and integrates with all the major labs, allowing for electronic orders and results.

On the flip side, some have complained Kareo’s EHR is too simple, and that if you want some additional functionality, like appointment reminders or patient statements, you’ll be forced to upgrade. Kareo’s Practice Management software starts at $74.50 a month

3. Hello Health

Hello Health is another recent web-based EMR that is offered at no cost. They target primary care and pediatrics practices, and the revenue model is a bit more unintuitive than the two previous solutions. Rather than operate on an ad-supported or freemium model, Hello Health offers the core EMR functionality for free, but then charges patients, rather than doctors, for access to a patient portal that allows for perks like online scheduling, direct communication with the physician, and the option for video conference “virtual visits.” Patients can (but are not required to) pay $36 to $120 annually for this access. Additionally, a portion of this is given back to the practice and Hello Health claims practices can earn up to $20,000 a year by using their EMR.

Hello Health screenshot

Pros/Cons

Another modern system with an emphasis on functionality, Hello Health has a clean user interface, and recently came out with a patient portal mobile app. It is certified for Meaningful Use, and the unique payment model means Hello Health could actually end up paying you, rather than the other way around for using their system.

The other side of that coin is that you may end up alienating some patients by asking them to pay extra (even if the fee is minimal) for your use of the EMR. The portal functionality and concierge services that Hello Health offers patients for a fee are, in some cases, being offered to patients for free from other vendors, so this could be seen by some patients as not worth it.

4. OpenEMR

This is the most popular of the open source EMR options, with 3,000-5,000 downloads per month. Being open source, OpenEMR is not web-based, but can run on Windows, Linux, Mac OSX and other operating systems as an installed or self-hosted program.

OpenEMR Screenshot

Pros/cons

With so many downloads and users, OpenEMR has a very active support community if you have any issues, questions with installation and more. In fact, the community has been referenced by just about every review online as “great” and “extremely helpful.” Additionally, customization, assuming your office has someone with tech skills, is quite doable and the open source code allows for all sorts of add-ons and tweaks.

Unfortunately, while OpenEMR is ONC Complete Ambulatory EHR certified, it is not yet Stage II certified for Meaningful Use. It is Stage I certified and the project is currently raising money for Stage II, which it hopes to have completed by July, 2014. Additionally, the UI is a little dated compared to the freemium and ad-supported options referenced above.

5. OpenMRS

Another open source EMR, OpenMRS has been around for quite some time. Begun in 2004, it’s seen adoption by a number of government agencies and local international healthcare nonprofits and universities like the Millennium Villages Project and the University of Virginia. OpenMRS is an EMR platform, rather than an EMR, meaning it “enables design of a customized medical records system with no programming knowledge.”

OpenMRS Screenshot

Pros/cons

Because OpenMRS is a platform, rather than a developed system, it can be easily customized to meet specific needs. This makes it ideal for creating EMR systems in developing countries (where, for instance, they wouldn’t need the insurance information that a US-based practice might) and the tons of add-on modules and easily accessible API allow for even further customization.

Because OpenMRS is not a fully-formed EMR program, it does require an upfront investment of time and energy to create a customized EMR. Additionally, while programming knowledge is not required to create the EMR, in-depth medical and systems analysis knowledge is.

6. VistA

VistA is an EMR developed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs to handle the records of the eight million veterans they provide care to. Its source code was made public domain under the Freedom of Information Act, and it’s available for download on the VA’s website. There are also a number of communities further developing VistA separate from the VA, of which OSEHRA is one of the most well known.

VistA Screenshot

Pros/cons

VistA is, literally, the largest EMR implementation on the planet. It’s battle hardened and proven, and you (likely) don’t have to worry about the provider going out of business anytime soon. The system is ideal for large organizations and hospitals, and has almost daily updates rolled out do address any issues and to make improvements.

However, VistA is an older program, so it’s not as user-friendly or easy to maintain as some of the more modern solutions out there. It also is a “megasuite” product, like Epic or Cerner, where you get all the functionality in one product, but you’re essentially stuck within that “ecosystem” for all your medical software needs.

7. FreeMED

This last solution is also open source, and, founded in 1999, one of the longest-running open source EMRs out there. It boasts over 81,000 downloads and implementation in everything from small private practices to large government hospitals.

FreeMED Screenshot

Pros/cons

FreeMD has a long pedigree, and this, along with an active support community, contributes to stability and support.

That said, it looks like development has petered off recently, with the last developer discussions ending in July of 2012. If this product is of interest to you, make sure you have a tech-savvy person or team on hand to develop or modernize the software going forward.

More?

And there you have it. Seven free solutions to meet your EMR needs. What did I miss? Are you using or aware of any other great free EMRs out there?

Looking for Electronic Medical Records software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Electronic Medical Records software solutions.

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About the Author

JP Medved

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J.P. currently works as a Content Editor at Capterra, a privately held technology and online media company focused on bringing together buyers and sellers of business software. He is a graduate of Georgetown University where he founded The Georgetown Federalist. Follow him on Twitter at @rizzleJPizzle.

Comments

OpenEMR is web based application.

OpenEMR is licensed under GNU. GNU and OpenEMR software are designed for “lack extensive computer experience” types of medical facilities. Now what are theadvantages / disadvantages of using both? They are quite different, both from the design, functionality and architecture. OpenEMR is a LAMP Electronic Medical Record. GNU Health is a modular Information System.

I am doing a cooperation project on ehealth. I am now searching for the EHR which matches best with what i need. The software has to be used in a town of Nepal without internet acces. Do you know if there’s any option to modify the interface of the software ? I have tried openEMR, but it’s not what i am really looking for. Thank you

Hello Health has actually been around since 2008, and developed its revenue generating patient subscription business model as part of its mission to support independent physicians. In addition to its patient subscription program, the company has developed a number of additional tools that enable physicians to get compensated for patient care, and promote sustainability and profitability, including a Credit Card on File program. Hello Health is also now offering a freemium version of its product, which includes full access for practitioners to its electronic health record platform, but puts some limits around training. The new entry level model is ideal for customers that want to test the waters before moving their practices to the revenue-generation plans.

Really interesting one. Each of the Electronic Medical Record Software options along with their pros and cons have been wonderfully described. Thanks for sharing the information.

Hello Health looks great, but GOOD LUCK getting a response from them. Took 6 WEEKS for them to respond that they couldn’t work with us. Pathetic.

I have worked as a implementation Specialist for over 7 years with EPIC one of the larger and most expensive EHR systems out there on the market today. My request is that someone explain the difference between a EMR and EHR because some of the systems listed are different.

I am currently running a Adult Day Care Service for the Elderly who receive Medicaid Benefits. I am looking for a free EHR service to use and document patients/clients (the elderly) administration of medications and also other clinical documentation.

Hi Anonymous EHR Specialist,

You may find this helpful about the difference between EMR and EHR:

http://www.healthit.gov/buzz-blog/electronic-health-and-medical-records/emr-vs-ehr-difference/

That said, often the phrases are used interchangeably, so I wouldn’t get too caught up in which is which.

I am a primary care doctor, practicing in CA. I think of all these free EMRs Practice Fusion is by far the most user friendly and advanced. I’ve been using it in my community among other doctors. As the article noted it has BIG limitations on the lab and rad interfaces. Even Quest and LabCorp are not connected for most of my peers. Not having a billing system is minus, especially after I switched from ECW, but we use an outside agency and its covered. For all lab, rad, PT, pharma and SNF interfaces we use HealthGorilla.com and for online appointments we use Zocdoc.com; so is everybody else in California I think. If you use practice fusion with these other free systems (except Zocdoc is paid) – it is actually the best one out there for my purposes.

Great information PCP_care, thanks for sharing your experience.

right on regarding: PRACTICEFUSION i have been using Practicefusion for two years now Dec 4 they completey changed . I have no access to my scheduler, nor can i get accurate prescribing, because the dosage is lift out of the script. plus patients can no longer schedule their own appointments, the message they gets (So patients tell me) sound as if i am closing up the practic. it takes forever to get support, and when i do the answer is “i am sorry for the problem” in a few months …. I DO NOT HAVE A FEW MONTHS . ie looking for another software co

Thanks a lot for sharing such a great stuff. I am planning to develop a medical system for my patients. I really liked the interface of Practice Fusion and Hello Health, hope they works best as I’ll try them.

You can also add this app http://www.healthmemo.in/ to your list. Digitize your health records with this free app

Point of correction, OpenEMR is 100 percent web base application.
With the following Features
1 A Special Appeal
2 OpenEMR Features
2.1 Free
2.2 ONC Certified
2.3 Patient Demographics
2.4 Patient Scheduling
2.5 Electronic Medical Records
2.6 Prescriptions
2.7 Medical Billing
2.8 Clinical Decision Rules
2.9 Patient Portal
2.10 Reports
2.11 Multilanguage Support
2.12 Security
2.13 Support
2.14 Community

Hi good reviews. What do you recommend for the UK?
Amjed

I am using this app http://www.healthmemo.in/ for EHR.

Hi guys, I’m currently doing my research project regarding tracking of Infant Immunization using an Open Source software. which of these listed above open source EMR software can be extended and use to the mentioned research project. thanks :)

Hi Jocelyn,

If you need something open source, OpenEMR or FreeMed are likely the most “out of the box” solutions. I think both should be able to track immunization records.

I am new to electronic health systems and would appreciate it if you could direct me to web sites where I can gain knowledge in this area.
Thank you so much

Hi Lila, I put together a list of great informational resources for EHR, hope this helps:

http://blog.capterra.com/best-healthcare-technology-blogs/

Thank you so very much

@JP : Big Thanks :) will look at FreeMed and will read related articles.

[…] elaborate Excel spreadsheet. That is why many doctors are still not willing to use them, even for free. Electronic health records by themselves are just cranky databases that only archive […]

This is a new information for me, because free software for clinical records management is new for me. I have heard about these types of system, but everything was paid. I think that these free softwares cannot be used in big hospitals. But these will surely help clinics and all.

May I recommend Bahmni, a lightweight and fully open source EMR and Hospital Management system built on top of OpenMRS, OpenELIS (Lab) and Odoo (ERP). It is especially targeted towards low resource settings — and has been already deployed in multiple locations in the Indian sub-continent.

It included features around Registration, Lab, OPD, IPD, Radiology, Pharmacy, Billing, Programs, etc and uses OpenMRS data model to store patient records.

For more details visit: http://www.bahmni.org.

(Disclosure: I am the community lead for Bahmni)

nice products .really worth reading.

PracticeMate is free and has a free billing module with free clearinghouse and certified. Part of OfficeAlly system

Of all of these, there’s a pretty huge player that’s missing. iSALUS Healthcare is a web-based FREE EHR that is amazingly comprehensive and able to be customized for a huge variety of specialties. You can learn more at http://isalushealthcare.com

Which one is better for international use outside USA? Practice fusion is limited to USA

Hi Amr,

All the open source options will work outside the US, but they may not be optimized for your country’s medical regulatory or reporting environment, so make sure they can do what you need them to before committing.

@ Gurpreet Luthra
Interesting stuff. Can Bahmni be configured/modified to work using smart card technology and biometrics for patient identification and authentication? We are currently working on implement such an EHR system

Hi JP and all, we are looking for a free and open-source EHR system which is “Mobile friendly” so that patient-interface, doctor-interface, lab-interface, these all can be managed via “smartphones (Android)” with minimal requirement for web-based administration (may be limited to lab-interface). This is needed for community deprived of access to personal computers/ laptops. Which of these listed products (or the new ones which have come after this article) most suit the mobile friendliness. Thanks in advance.

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