Hospitals are just as service oriented as any other business, with the addition of daily navigating the complexities of life and death. In the same way that businesses strive to provide excellent customer service to ensure customer loyalty and reduce churn, hospital staff must juggle menial things like necessary paperwork, with an overworked staff, and client satisfaction.
A large factor in juggling all those elements is the secure exchange of patient data. While patients can become upset when they feel like they’re repeating the same stream of information and updates to their physicians, nurses, and doctors, those same medical professionals can become just as frustrated when the software they depend on to store all that data falters.
Electronic health records (EHR), also known as electronic medical records (EMR), have the rap of being inordinately expensive to implement, difficult to customize, and always lagging a bit behind the times.
However, what is a medical practice or hospital to do if they are either tight on budget or in desperate need of a turnkey solution that will centralize patient data?
Now let’s turn our attention to free EMR/EHR systems that hospitals can utilize. Or, as Ernesto Rodriguez, the lead developer of open-source GaiaEHR puts it: systems that are “allied against … proprietary software companies.”
Without further ado, below are three open-source EMR/EHR systems and two EMR/EHR systems that offer free trials.
Top-rated free EMR/EHR options (trials)
Product Name: Practice Fusion
G2 Crowd Star Rating: 3.6 out of 5 stars
How free? Completely free to use, so long as you don’t mind staring at the advertisements that creep onto the screen.
Why you should consider it: Practice Fusion is a web-based EHR platform built for small to mid-size medical practices. It is free for physicians to use (Practice Fusion has received several rounds of funding from private investors and relies on advertising money keep its services free). It’s an EHR as well as a practice management solution.
Features: Smart charting, code assist, e-prescriptions, appointment manager, HIPAA compliant document templates, population health management, patient invoicing, LIMS network
Practice Fusion Pricing: Free
Integrations: Labs API, imaging API, billing API, preferred billing partners with AdvancedMD, CollaborateMD, and Kareo
“Practice Fusion provides easy access to patient records and has streamlined the work our staff has to do resulting in less wasted time and money. Our outreach clinics have benefited tremendously, we no longer have to carry paper charts with us to remote areas to see patients. We can now access all of our patient data online. The integration with our labs also saves time and allows us to respond to our patients quicker. Practice Fusion has made a difference in how efficiently our clinics operate.” — Practice Fusion review from Kimberly M.
Product Name: iSALUS EHR
G2 Crowd Star Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars
How free? Free 30-day trial
Why you should consider it: iSALUS is an all-in-one medical practice management solution that bundles in EHR functionality with billing, scheduling, and practice-specific modules. The platform can be customized to medical specialties, ranging from allergy to county health services to tribal health.
Features: patient management, appointment scheduler, dashboards, charting, e-claims, claims submissions, invoicing, patient portal
iSALUS EHR Pricing: Must contact iSALUS for pricing
Integrations: Atlas Development and other laboratories
“We had to go EMR per Medicaid mandate. Also, we were having a hard time staying organized with trying to fit “the old way” (paper charts, ledger billing, making our own verification calls, etc.) in the “new” tech-savvy world, and it wasn’t working very well. Lot’s of costs that were unnecessary. We are actually saving money already (lots), and everything is becoming streamlined, better communication, easy to find information, and when we get audited this fall we should pass with flying colors!” — iSALUS EHR review from an administrator in health, wellness and fitness
Open-source EMR/EHR options
* While these products are listed on G2 Crowd, they have not yet received any reviews as of Jan. 31, 2018.
Product Name: OpenEMR
How free? Open-source
Why you should consider it: OpenEMR is a free, open-source EHR and practice management application that is ONC (oncology nursing certification) certified. With OpenEMR, hospitals can track patient demographics, support patient scheduling workflows, create and track prescriptions, support medical claims and billing processes, and provide patient portals. That’s all in addition to the tool’s fully-fledged EMR functionalities. OpenEMR runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. It supports multiple languages within the same clinic.
Features: Patient management, patient scheduling, e-prescriptions, billing, reporting, multi-language support, patient document encryption
Product Name: ClearHealth
How free? Open-source
Why you should consider it: ClearHealth optimizes the practice workflows of both smaller medical practices and large hospitals. The solution helps align hospital standards and patient care with the industry’s ever updating regulations and HIPAA compliance. ClearHealth includes functionality for scheduling, patient registration, electronic medical records, and patient billing. ClearHealth is written in PHP and runs on most server configurations, Windows, Linux, and MacOS on Apache and MySQL.
Features: Aligns medical practice STO federal guidelines and requirements
Product Name: vxVistA
How free? Open-source
Why you should consider it: vxVistA is an open source EHR that was designed for private healthcare organizations and practices that have limited financial resources. With vxVistA, practices can create digital versions of patient records and support the streamlining of clinical, administrative, and financial workflows. The solution also includes value-added solutions like a patient record system, a laboratory management system, charting notes, and prescription manager. One thing of note, however, is that add-on functionalities comes at additional monthly or annual costs and/or contractual obligations. vxVistA runs on Linux.
Features: Patient record system, inpatient and outpatient pharmacy, LIMS, charting
Users should keep in mind that while the above solutions are technically “free,” that really means they don’t require licensing fees. However, like any other open-source software, they do require a skilled computer support staff, so doctors and other hospital staff can best utilize the tool. Additionally, some open-source solutions cannot provide comprehensive functionality without add-ons that may cost a bit of money.
However, no matter what the cost of additional tech support or add-on modules, open-source EMR solutions cost just a fraction of legacy systems like Epic or Cerner.
Still, any administrative personnel who is charge of deciding which EMR solution will best suit their practice, should weigh all the pros and cons — not just financial — of deploying that EMR.
* Please note: Reviews have been edited for spelling and grammar.