Update 7/27/2017: This post has been updated to add OneTouch EMR and OpenEMR and remove iSALUS EHR, which is no longer free.
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.
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 1,000 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 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 premade 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 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, says Practice Fusion isn’t super psychotherapy friendly. Burnett reports having issues streamlining their process for keeping simple SOAP notes, calling it “nearly impossible.”
Another user, Trish Lindberg at Salveo, called it calls the software slow and unreliable and had a complaint complains about the support staff.
Used Practice Fusion? Leave a review!
As an open-source EMR, OpenMRS has been around for quite some time. It started in 2004, and a number of government agencies and local international healthcare non-profits and universities such as 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 U.S.-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.
VistA is the most familiar EHR in the U.S., according to Wikipedia. (Yes, it has a Wikipedia entry.) Developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it handles over 8 million veterans’ medical records. Because more than 65% 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’s also a “megasuite” product 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 its 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.
Being open source, OpenEMR is not web-based, but it can run on Windows, Linux, Mac OSX and other operating systems as an installed or self-hosted program.
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 2014 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 III. Additionally, the UI is a little dated compared to the freemium and ad-supported options referenced above.
One Touch EMR is a cloud-based EMR that includes electronic prescribing, lab integration, and a drawing tool for annotations.
One Touch EMR is certified for Meaningful Use I and II and ICD-10 ready. There’s an iPad app in which you can do everything you can do on a desktop, and you can also add clinical photos. Dragon Medical dictation helps you document quickly, and the template library includes multiple specialties.
Capterra reviewers enjoy the “familiar” design of the workflow, with one writing, “You can tell the product was designed by a doctor. [It] helps me document faster.” Another describes One Touch EMR as “easy to use and implement. They have a great training program that is a must with any new EMR. The staff also enjoys the ease of use for the product.”
The only real complaints were about the learning curve, but the reviewer mentioned that One Touch EMR offers great training, and another reviewer wrote, “I wish more people were using them, so there was a better user-group for troubleshooting.”
Used One Touch EMR? Leave a review!
And there you have it. Six 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.