Free EMRs: Too Good to be True?

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media , April 13, 2010

Primer on open-source EMR options

Waldren classifies open-source EMR products in two categories: community and professional. Community products are typically from a small group or practice that created an EMR and decided to offer it as an open-source product. Professional products have a company behind them delivering services. What does that mean for physician practices?

If the community product doesn't have a service component, the physician practice will have to fend for itself in terms of deploying and maintaining the EMR system, Waldren explains. The practice may also be responsible for the certification component under the HITECH Act. In the professional model, the company would likely be responsible for certification and providing services such as installation and training.

The challenges from a product standpoint for physician practices are determining:

  • Where will support for the application be obtained?

  • What information technology resources will be needed to manage the installation and keep the network running?

  • How will the product be certified for meaningful use? Will the vendor certify the product?

  • Will the product meet requirements from a usability and workflow standpoint?

The benefits from a product standpoint are:

  • The price point is lower.

  • Other companies can provide products and services around an open-source product because they have access to the source code; physicians aren't tied to one single company.

  • If a practice wants to add a feature or function, it doesn't need to wait for the vendor to support it. Instead, it can find a programmer to add that functionality.

  • Carrie Vaughan is a senior editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

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    1 comments on "Free EMRs: Too Good to be True?"

    Ginny Crandall (1/6/2011 at 4:46 PM)
    I understand that while the EMR system may be pricy initially, it works the best over time as there is less confusion due to writer error. It might be something that Ms. Blazek needs to work up to, however.




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