I am a huge proponent for making health IT technology free to use. Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) offer great promise but often require significant investment of both provider’s time and money. With the cloud EMR making its way into the mix, market schematics have been altered to a great extent. Accessible remotely through the use of a web browser and an internet connection, the web-based EMR does not require lengthy installation procedures whereas costs are also cut down significantly. Since the application is hosted externally, providers do not need to worry about issues such as internal networking and data security. Access based logins can be used to restrict the information flow, whereas backups can be made at the vendor’s end as well. The SaaS model is also more affordable as there is no upfront cost for licenses whereas most web-based EMRs are also device friendly, reducing the need for hardware upgrade or purchase.
SaaS EMRs have definitely allowed vendors to think about alternate sources of revenue. As the application is hosted on the cloud and accessed through a browser, EMR vendors can choose to earn through online adverts and banner placement. Another alternate source is from the sale of de-indentified data to health and disease control bodies. Although frowned upon by some, de-indentified records cannot be traced back to patients. Such sources have made the concept of free EMRs more practical which is why we are now seeing an upward trend towards such products.
Most health IT experts tend to believe that free or an open source program is the way forward for the health IT industry. While I do support the idea, it lacks practicality. Take the example of the most popular open source program, Linux. While the operating system itself is considered to be more stable than Microsoft Windows, it significantly lags behind the latter when it comes to popularity. Any commercial product developed is usually backed by extensive research and analysis, which is why the vendor charges the price and it is this feature that an open source application may not posses. This is why the idea of having a basic EMR with applicable fees for add-ons appeals to me more and I do believe that in the near future we would see a host of no frills EMR applications available to providers for free.
That being said, eliminating EMR costs altogether seems far-fetched, especially when considering specialist applications and other innovative designs. Another thing which may be pertinent to note is that while a free EMR may be able to provide you with basic functionality, its performance may be limited in comparison to a paid EMR. In response to one of my pervious posts, one contributor replied that the major cost of EMR is the time that it consumes. ’Free EMR’s take an incredible amount of doctor time to set up and they also have many limitations. The reason the government is providing incentive is to purchase an industry compliant EMR.’ While it is true that the quality of after sales service does lack when you are using a free EMR, a lot of innovative companies have found cost effective alternatives such as live chat along with issue creation and tracking. The important thing that you should be carrying from this is that, if you are getting something for free, do not expect it to knock your socks off.
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