Update: This post on Free and Open Source EMR Software was updated 7/7/2016
As a doctor you may not be able to completely avoid data entry.
Or a disappointing EHR.
But you can at least minimize the cost of going paperless by implementing free Electronic Medical Records software.
Today we’re going to compare free EHR solutions side-by-side.
This is the gorilla in the room for free EMR products. Practice Fusion is the fourth most popular EHR vendor according to our research, with around 30,000 customers and 112,000 users. It’s the only solution in the top five with a free version.
It 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 small and mid-sized medical practices (up to 1000 employees).
The software is completely free, and is ad-supported (meaning you will see relevant ads within the software). Billing is not included in the software but here are the billing vendors Practice Fusion integrates with.
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. Our reviewers give the platform an average rating of 4.5/5 stars, calling the software easy to use and simple to get started on. PF offers full support (though not 24/7 live support) with 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, so you also qualify for EHR stimulus funds if you use it.
Practice Fusion doesn’t offer E/M coding or handwriting recognition. One user, Casey Burnett, Owner of Present Moment Counseling.com, said PF isn’t super psychotherapy friendly. Burnett
reported having issues streamlining their process for keeping simple SOAP notes, calling it “nearly impossible.”
Another user, Trish Lindberg at Salveo, called it slow and unreliable, and had a complaint about support staff.
As an open-source EMR, OpenMRS has been around for quite some time. Begun in 2004, a number of government agencies and local international healthcare nonprofits and universities like the Millennium Villages Project and the University of Virginia use it. OpenMRS is an EMR platform, rather than an EMR, meaning it “enables design of a customized medical records system with no programming knowledge.”
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.
3. iSALUS EHR
iSALUS EHR is a specialty-specific cloud-based EHR and Practice Management software. It is Drummond Certified for Stage 2 Meaningful Use. And it has integrated billing capabilities. It’s got all the features you’d expect, minus handwriting recognition.
It’s got a free version with basic functionality, and then tiered pricing for more features.
The free version ain’t bad. It’s can handle creating your claims and taking payments from patients. It’s got integrations with ePrescribing and labs. It offers document scanning and document management (up to 2 GB). And they offer two hours of one-on-one training. From looking at the video, iSALUS’s interface looks cluttered and confusing. But the one-on-one training should help with that.
VistA is the most familiar and widely used EHR in the U.S., according to Wikipedia. (Yes, it has a Wikipedia entry.) Developed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, it handles over eight million veterans’ medical records. Because more than 60% of all physicians trained in the U.S. rotate through the VHA on clinical electives, many physicians have experience using it.
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 is, literally, the largest EMR implementation on the planet. Nearly half of all U.S. hospitals with a complete inpatient/outpatient enterprise-wide implementation of an EHR are VA hospitals using VistA. It’s a battle-hardened, proven solution. 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 to address any issues and to make improvements.
However, VistA is not a young 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.
FreeMED is an open-source, old-as-dirt EMR. Founded in 1999, it’s 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.
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. The last developer discussions ended in July 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.
I highly recommend doing a free demo of FreeMED (username: demo, password: demo). It’s an easy and fast way to check it out and you don’t need to give them any information or download anything to try it, which is cool.
And there you have it. Five free solutions to meet your EMR needs. Remember to check whether the open-source solutions are or can be easily modified to be Meaningful Use and ICD certified before investing in setting them up.
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.