I get asked regularly as to why I don’t recommend free EMR software when talking to doctors here in the Philippines.
It’s definitely a hot-topic kind of thing. Those that I meet that are already using a free EMR are usually sensitive to what I say.
Obviously, people would prefer not to pay for anything even though they want it and would get a lot of benefits from it.
It’s normal and I totally understand but…I usually start with 1 statement.
Why do you think it’s free?
There’s always a reason as to why something is free, right?
Why would a solo developer invest his time and efforts to build an app? Why would a company invest resources (legitimate developers are not cheap, so are great designers) to build the software and give it away for free?
Sure, you can say that they do it for “love” or something but that won’t pay the bills.
Red flags are already everywhere.
Companies that do EMR’s for free can just pack up and disappear overnight leaving you with no data.
Maybe they are just testing the market? (We started off free because we wanted to see how we can improve the app we built.)
Maybe they are free because they are funded so they can sell your data? Maybe it’s just a hobby and it will not have any updates or other improvements moving forward?
- Development takes time
- The team that develops it needs to be paid
- Data takes resources to store
- And even more resources to secure
Doing it for free is simply not viable.
Let’s be realistic here, the medical field, specifically when it comes to “requirements” – is just going to keep expanding. That means costs for the development will only go up each day, month, year.
Factor in that each specialty will have their own quirks… that leads to more features. Then factor in each doctor having their own way of doing things… that leads to more development time.
Then couple that with a majority of doctors being reluctant to use technology, then that means getting users to use the free EMR will still be hard to find. That alone will make the person or company behind the free EMR to give up and get out.
At the end of the day, it’s why a lot of EMR’s just disappear. The industry needs a lot of attention and you will need to meet the demands because getting the doctors to buy-in is already hard enough.
In short, it’s just not sustainable long term for most companies.
With a free EMR, you will eventually lose your data. It’s just inevitable.
You won’t have support, you won’t get any updates from most of them, don’t expect backups and like some doctors I’ve met, you will end up “swearing off” EMR’s simply because you used a free EMR (or a paid but poorly supported one) and it left a bad taste in their mouths.
Sure, there are those that are free and still running after years. It’s mainly because a lot of doctors adopted it BUT there’s probably a compromise. Are you bombarded with ads? You might also want to review their terms as they will probably sell your data.
When SeriousMD got started back in the day, we introduced it as free because we were testing the market. The doctors we personally knew (friends/relatives) would NEVER pay for anything, so we thought going the free route would be the best bet to test the market. We wanted to get some initial feedback to improve the app and the last thing on our minds was monetizing it.
It’s a great thing that our early adopters were vocal enough and demanded to pay. We talked a lot with our users to see why staying free would be an issue for them, so from there, we announced the plan to offer a paid upgrade, we gave the doctors a few more months of free so they’d have ample time to decide if SeriousMD was worth it before we charged and the rest was history.
The stuff I write about and talk about, I learned from actual feedback from doctors, from actual experience. We started off as free. We know how it works on the back end and what it costs to run this operation. I’ve also been on the field non-stop for the past 3 years, traveling around the Philippines talking to almost a thousand doctors by now, seeing their various setups, hearing their stories and fears about EMR’s.
So, Here’s My Advice:
If you still want a legitimate EMR that’s free, get somebody like a pharma company to sponsor your subscription.
If you look at alternatives, like using MS Word or some kind of “form maker” app, then ask yourself if you are future proofing your practice by using it, because the answer is always no.
If you’ve decided that you will “pay” for an EMR, look at the benefits you get from a business and personal standpoint. It’s very easy to measure and calculate. You’ll instantly see how it pays for itself, just remember to pick the right EMR software to use. 😉