Back to Blog

Do I Need an Open Source EHR (Electronic Health Record)?

Do I Need an Open Source EHR (Electronic Health Record)?
13 December 2017

As we move forward into an ever more tech aligned world, the healthcare industry has a responsibility to keep up with the times and adapt to the needs of those we serve.   

That cannot be done without making digital health an integral component of the care provision process and an effective way to do this is with open source EHR.   

But, to do this effectively, there are some questions that must first be asked and answered.    

  1. Is it cost efficient to implement an open source EHR system?

Open source EHR is an incredible opportunity to create a near-perfect EHR/EMR system from scratch (and OpenEMR is a good place to start).   

But it also means that the developer and user take on many of the costs that a vendor would normally manage.   

Consider server setup fees (as well as updates and maintenance), monthly hosting fees, an e-prescription subscription (if you need one), any lab interface cost, and the potential price tag of backup, disaster recovery, support, and user training.   

  1. Can you try it out?

Some EHR/EMR providers will allow you to try the system before you commit, but open source EHR systems always give you this opportunity.   

The try-before-you-buy approach lets you get a comprehensive understanding of what you really want in an EHR, particularly before investing a lot of money and time into one solution.   

  1. Can we leave and/or change EHRs (Electronic Health Records) at any time?

The digital health IT market is still dominated by a few big systems.   

A lot of these companies make it difficult (and sometimes very painful) to switch to a new EHR. OpenEMR allows its users the flexibility to leave at any time.   

  1. Is the system flexible and/or customizable?

This question leads to the following additional questions, is open source EHR software compatible with other systems you might need for your practice, such as e-prescribing modules, laboratories, or clearinghouses?   

Can open EMR software hook into that healthcare ecosystem?   

Open EMR customization lets you equip your system with whatever is needed – but do you have the expertise in-house to do so efficiently? 

  1. What is the security of the EHR installation?

According to Open-Source Survey, security matters when choosing new software, and most users believe that open EMR is more secure, on average, than proprietary software.   

Though counter-intuitive, open source is available for all and therefore any flaw is immediately rectified by one of the many skilled OpenEMR developers.   

Good news in a world that is increasingly vulnerable to hackers or data breaches.   

  1. Who owns the data?

Here, we go back to big digital health IT companies; many digital health IT providers own the data of their customers.   

This creates huge issues when you are trying to transition to another system; it can make the transition longer than necessary and oftentimes more complicated.   

With open source EHR systems (and some nimbler digital health IT companies), you have the rights to your data.   

  1. Is the EHR easy for inexperienced users to navigate?

All EHR software is created equally. Not to mention, there is an incredible amount of burnout in the medical profession, and several reputable sources point to digital Health tech as part of the cause.   

If you are designing your system based on EHR open-source code, this is an aspect to keep in mind.   

  1. Is it possible to have a cloud solution?

Setting up local servers is time-consuming and cumbersome (and puts your data at risk, if the server were to be compromised) – but oftentimes, so is navigating the cost and setup process of hosting your solution on the cloud.   

It is not impossible – but if you opt to use open-source EHR software, it is one cost factor to keep in mind.   

Some estimates come in at around $400/month for cloud hosting and maintenance.   

  1. What do you do for OpenEMR support and maintenance issues?

OpenEMR forums are robust.   

They are a community of talented developers who have an incredible amount of skill and expertise in the industry, but when you do have to pay for specialized help, there can be a hefty price tag attached.   

The flip side of the coin makes an argument for having a provider on hand 24/7 who can answer your questions and consult on (or solve) any issues you might encounter.   

  1. What other fees might you encounter while implementing the solution?

This point is often connected to the flexibility question, as well as cloud hosting.   

When you decide to go with open source EHR, the user has an incredible amount of freedom.   

With that freedom can come other, hidden costs – like we mentioned earlier with integrations (like e-prescribing modules, laboratories, or clearinghouses), or hosting fees, or acquiring outside assistance.  

To wrap up: 

So, is open source EHR right for you? We don’t know! That’s up to you to decide. 

We can’t answer that question, because we bring our own bias to the table.  

Of course, we believe that blueEHR can be the solution for most clinics and practices.  

But we also understand the plethora of available eHealth solutions and the associated nuances with each.  

And we want to help you find the one that is best suited for you. 

The founders of blueEHR, blueBriX and ZH Healthcare cut their teeth developing open source EHR, particularly OpenEMR.  

They started their digital health IT journey as some of the leading developers of OpenEMR, going as far as to be the chairperson of the board for the OpenEMR non-profit.  

And that knowledge and experience is what they utilized and improved upon when they built our intuitive, interoperable and in-house EHR solution, blueEHR. 

If you would like to learn more about the pros and cons of an open source EMR, or learn more about our blueEHR software, reach out to us today!