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The Right Open Source (Free) EMR Model

Posted on January 27, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve had a huge interest in the open source EMR and Free EMR movement.  Turns out my readers are just as interested in a Free EMR as I am.  However, we probably have different reasoning.  I think the power of open source is in having a crowd of people that are all contributing and sharing in the software development.

The problem I’ve had with most open source EMR projects is that I haven’t seen any that have had a large and committed enough community to really sustain development.  Granted, it’s been a few months/years since I’ve really looked into most of the open source EMR packages, so please correct me if there are some open source EMR communities that I should consider looking at again, but I digress.  My point is that without a strong developer community, open source is not a very good alternative.

I recently came across elementalClinic which I believe is using the open source EMR development model correctly.  I’ve never used the elementalClinic EMR so I can’t comment on its featureset (although it looks like it’s a mental health EMR), but what I do find interesting is how their funding development of their open source EMR.

In a recent comment on EMR and HIPAA, Alex said that elementalClinic has 150 paying customers that are using the software with somewhere around 500 people downloading the software.  This seems like the perfect model for developing an Open Source EMR.  150 paying customers that provide a solid foundation development team for the open source project.  Now, I think that 500 is a rather small number of downloads, but is a good start to creating a vibrant community of open source developers that will build on top of the foundation 150 paying customers.

Many would wonder why the 150 paying customers would fund everyone else downloading it for free.  There are a number of different reasons as far as premium support, custom features, etc that they might be paying to receive.  However, the best reasons is because by leaving it open source they can utlize the development and feedback from those using the free, open source download of the EMR.

Plus, having the license be open source means that any one of those 150 paying customers could decide to take the code from their current EMR install and take it in another direction.  In open source they call it a fork in the development.  How easy would it be to create a foundation EMR with a fork for every specialty: pediatrics, oncology, urology, etc.  Would be pretty neat and a great reason to do open source.

5 Minute EMR Install

Posted on January 25, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been really intrigued with how various EMR software has been touting how quickly they can get an EMR installed for a doctor’s office.  I’m sure that many people can tell of experiences where they spent literally years getting their EMR ready for use.  This is what makes these 5 minute EMR installs that I’ve seen recently seem so intriguing.

Practice Fusion’s Live in Five

Practice Fusion has a “Live in Five” marketing campaign and promise that they can get a practitioners charting in an EMR in five minutes.  Here’s their full description of Live in Five:

Forget everything you know about software. Practice Fusion’s exclusive ‘Live in Five’ program allows you to be up and charting in less than five minutes. There are no sales contracts, no consultants to go on-site, no installation of hardware, software, and databases.

Of course, I think that Live in Five is a better marketing tool than it is reality.  Not that you won’t be charting in 5 minutes.  You certainly will be, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be a more configuration and setup needed in order to move your paper charts to EMR.  There’s just more to the process than 5 minutes allows.

It is true that a hosted solution like Practice Fusion is much much faster to implement than a regular client server install.  However, no one should assume that they’ll be ready to ditch their paper charts after 5 minutes.

Open Source elementalClinic 5 Minute Install

I’m a strong proponent of open source software.  So much so that EMR and HIPAA is completely done using open source software.  I think that’s why I’m so impressed with that elementalClinic is doing to try to make installing an open source EMR in 5 minutes.  Here’s a link to install elementalClinic in 5 minutes.

Of course, if you aren’t technical you’re eyes are going to glaze over if you look at the instructions listed on that site.  However, for someone with any experience using Ubuntu linux (which is most technical people), those instructions are about as easy as you can create.  The cool part is that it makes updating the software that easy as well.

Install Thoughts

Certainly installing an EMR is just one step in the implementation of an EMR.  There’s always a lot of configuring, setup, and workflow questions that must be answered when implementing an EMR.  The cool part of the 5 minute install is that it makes answering all of those questions so much easier since you can spend 5 minutes doing an install and literally test the EMR out of the box.  You don’t have to just trust what a sales person tells you it can do.  Now you can drive exactly what your EMR software will provide before spending all the money and signing long term contracts.