Since the introduction of Cloud computing in the EMR industry, the market variables have changed significantly.
The Web enabled EMR solution brings a lot more to the table because of its accessibility and cost benefit. With major EHR vendors aiming to go mobile, Cloud based EMR’s have become a more practical option for developers – effectively reducing the cost for both vendor and the user.
The advent of Cloud computing has also yielded other business models, such as the advertisement model; whereby the EMR vendor generates its revenue through ads and in some cases through statistical data sales to Health/Disease control bodies thus becoming the “Free EMR”.
The skepticism surrounding the “Free EMR” is usually fueled by the question, “Is it really FREE?” and although your better judgment may have already answered the question, let’s restate “It is, in fact too good to be true.” Though vendors may actually not charge you anything for the EMR application, the long term cost for training, maintenance and support still remains.
Free EMR applications offer a certain period (few hours) of free training and support, which obviously (tactfully) is insufficient even for advanced users. This ensures that you will eventually end up paying for ”the Free EMR”; but despite the maintenance and support costs, it may still be a viable solution for some providers.
Let’s consider the other issue with the advert models (selling medical data). Although the data has been cleaned to protect the identity of the patients, many professional practitioners may still have an ethical or moral dilemma. Also, ethically the patient consent may be necessary and breaking such news to your patients can be tricky, “Mr. Abc I have a responsibility to tell you that your medical data under anonymous pretext may be sold to health control bodies, etc. enabling me to save some money on my “free EMR”.” However, this dilemma can be avoided by paying to secure your application from adverts and retain patient confidentiality.
Also, a Free EMR usually does not include complete functionality that even a modestly priced EMR may possess. Features like document imaging, alert messaging or integrated modules of practice management or patient portal would not be provided, hence requiring you to buy them from other vendors. This would not only end up costing you more but may also create interfacing nightmares.
The problem is that most of the Free EMR companies are still barely through their introduction phase, still working out the kinks of making such a model work. Whereas, conventional client base and subscription based EHR hosting models have existed for a while; allowing them to gain significant market and customer exposure in comparison. Leading EMR companies have not only incorporated customer feedback but also have grown expansively in functionality over the years and their tried and tested solution hence provides a much safer bet.
Lastly, due to their limited functionality Free EMRs usually also end up facing certification problems, which in turn can effect a practitioner’s incentive qualification criteria. A Free EMR company CEO admitted that CCHIT certification was not their cup of tea. The rigorous functionality, security and interoperability requirements required for an CCHITcertification just cannot be supported by a fairly unique revenue model for providing enough resources to build a competitive no cost EMR.
With that said, the purpose here is not to discourage practitioners from utilizing a free EMR, but, in fact, to allow them to make an informed decision.