Free and open source healthcare software for your practice

Free and open source healthcare software for your practice

Summary: There are quite a few free and open source healthcare programs that can help doctors and small clinics get started with EHR without breaking the bank.

TOPICS: Health, Open Source, SMBs

I've written about my very old school doctor before. Whenever I visit him, I find his concerns to be a microcosm of what doctors across the country are facing.

This time, my doc was complaining about the cost of medical software. He was going on and on about the new healthcare laws. He complained of how he's now required to record this and that, and about how patient care time is being eaten up by mandatory record keeping.

Then he went on a rant about the companies (the "vultures," to use his word) that constantly call him, trying to sell him this software plan or that software license. If only, he said to me, his software could be free.

I didn't share with him my feelings about the irony in that statement, given the high cost of services from the medical industry.

Nevertheless, I will share with you the hint I gave him: there are a lot of free and open source medical record keeping programs. While the list is far frome exhaustive, a good and quick first stop is the Wikipedia page "List of open source healthcare software."

The software ranges from public health to dental management, from medical practice management, to imaging and more.

I know that it won't cut down on our medical bills, but it might help some doctors and clinics get up to speed with EHR while avoiding huge startup costs. Of course, open source does come with its own challenges, but hey, what's a side-effect or two when you're taking your free software medicine?

Topics: Health, Open Source, SMBs


Denise Amrich is a Registered Nurse, the health care advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, and a mentor for the Virtual Campus at Florida's Brevard Community College.

Nothing in this article is meant to be a substitute for medical advice, and shouldn't be considered as such. If you are in need of medical help, please see your doctor.

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  • Open Source Health IT Solutions

    There are a lot of great open source health IT systems out there now to choose from, e.g. EHR, PHR, etc. I recommend one start looking for info at either COSI Open Health at or Open Health News at
  • Not very good advice

    Denis, I don't know if any of these open source alternatives are Certified for Meaningful Use. And they also lack ePrescription capabilities, patient portal, eLab results, etc. All of which are now required.

    Any practice implementing these open source platforms would spend more on IT implementation than on affordable cloud hosted EHR.

    The reason why EHR software is so expensive, is because doctors refuse to learn how to use computers, especially the older folks that are resistant to change. There are 300+ EHR competitors in the market. If fewer doctors stopped kicking and screaming about moving from paper charts to computers, EHR license fees would drop in half.
  • Reviews and comparisons of any good ones?

    Wikipedia listings often strive to include all possible projects, most of which are lame, never built a community, or still downloadable but effectively abandoned. Surely it's possible to build open source medical software that meets the needs of physicians, their office staff, patients, pharmacies, insurance, and Medicare/Medicaid, but how would one find it? With no authoritative listing and a few dozen entries in the Wikipedia article I'm not going to download, install, and evaluate each in the hope of finding a good one.
  • Open Source & Cloud-based EHR Solutions

    I agree that using one of the low cost cloud-based EHR solutions may be the best way to go for many physician offices. Open source requires some effort. But, that said, many open source EHR solutions like OpenEMR, OpenMRS, VistA, RPMS, etc. are widely used and have been certified for Meaningful Use. Thousands of healthcare organizations, hospitals, clinics, etc. are using some of these open source solutions, especially those which have robust support communities.
  • I'd like to know more

    I've read that VistA works, but is complex and difficult to install and operate, OK for a large hospital, but more than a small practice can handle. I wish I knew which of the many open source projects have robust support communities, which are primarily used by large hospitals and practices with substantial in-house IT expertise, and which if any are successfully used by many small practices that can bring in a contractor to install and configure and then have it just work with very low maintenance.
  • Do I Have Anything to Add Here?

    We may be talking apples and oranges here but my feeling in general is, open source and freeware software can be good for casual home use. But the professional medical software I'm used to seeing goes through extensive certifications to handle PHI. Much of it is regulatory and is updated quarterly. You can't screw around with that stuff. There is a trust level regarding security you have with commercial software vendors and also well defined licensing agreements that don't suddenly come out to bite you. I've worked with doctors who want to bring in freeware and open source stuff for some things and have had to reject it on these issues. Considering court costs and lawyer fess, good commercial software is probably not so expensive after all.

    Denise, I'm sorry to be rude about this, but my feeling is that your doctor friend should probably retire or consider a move to a third-world country to continue his Marcus Welby era practice. That or become a provider with one of the big boys and let them buy the software.

    Professionals who make their living from the tools they use can not afford to go cheap. You don't buy scalpels and X-Ray machines on Craigslist. I don't want my doctor getting his software from the equivalent.
  • Open source software is a viable business solution

    I couldn't disagree with JoeFoerster any further regarding open source software being limited to casual use. Open source projects have surpassed traditional software models in many ways by promoting development based on merit, and the needs of community, without a hidden corporate political agenda. MySQL, Linux, and even Android are great examples of open source projects that millions of companies use and heavily rely on. They provide security, flexibility, quality, freedom, auditability, and the price is right. It is a myth and misconception that open source software is "cheap" or somehow less capable because the software is free to use. The health care industry is behind the technological curve but open source projects like ClinCapture are pushing the limits and proving that open source software is a viable solution.