Top 3 free EHR software solutions

Note: pricing and market share data correct as of July 2015

Free is good…right? That is not always the case, but free solutions are still worth considering during your EHR selection search. Like every other part of life, there is an upside and a downside to all that is gratis. As the adage instructs, “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” but this doesn’t seem to apply to the universe of free EHR products.

Currently, there are a range of free or open source EHR platforms available on the market. A number of these have achieved mainstream market standing, in fact, according to Medscape, one of the most highly rated for overall satisfaction is the Veteran Administration’s Computerized Patient Record System (VA CPRS) ‒ also known as VistA. VistA relies on open source software. Further evidence supporting the mainstream success of free or open source EHR is found in the example of Practice Fusion. Practice Fusion holds 15% of the solo ambulatory market and 12% of all practices with one to three clinicians, according to a survey by American EHR Partners.

In this article we look at three of the primary free EHR systems: Kareo, hellohealth and Practice Fusion.

1. Kareo

Kareo offers a web-based medical billing software, electronic medical records, practice management, and integrated electronic claims processing system, although only Kareo EHR is offered as a free product.

Users rate Kareo EHR highly for its ease of use, however some users have experienced problems relating to practice management integration. Customers have provided positive feedback on the reporting and breadth of functionality, yet opinion on the vendor’s customer service department is divided, with some users expressing frustration with the time it took to answer questions and the level of useful responses received.

Recommended Reading: EHR vendor directory - ensure your EHR software knowledge is 100% accurate

Kareo’s revenue model for their system is built on the paid systems which it offers alongside its free EHR product. These products range from $150-300/month/provider and cover practice and patient management. Medical billing management is also offered at 4-9%/collections based on volume and specialty.

Update: as of 10th May 2016, Kareo ERP no longer offers a free pricing plan. For more information on these changes, visit our Kareo vendor profile

2. hellohealth

hellohealth, a web-based free EHR solution, provides a patient management platform that integrates with EHR for the practice, a personal health portal for patients, and a suite of online communication tools to connect patients, health information and providers. From the three systems discussed, hellohealth had the least amount of public review data at the time of publication. Among these reviews hellohealth rated highly across categories of ease of use and customer service, but a lack of customization was raised as a potential drawback.

hellohealth operate a subscription pricing which is passed on to the patient population with the potential for revenue generation for the practice. Whether your practice sees that as a value add or not is another question - do patients want to pay for your EHR?

3. Practice Fusion

Practice Fusion provides a free, web-based EHR system alongside practice management technology. Representing the largest market share of the free systems discussed, Practice Fusion appears to suffer from reliability issues in more recent versions. However, among customers who reported no technical issues, the release frequency was praised. Given the wide range of experiences one is left wondering if the issue rests in functionality of the platform or unreasonable expectations on the part of users. Despite the broad range of experiences the system showed modest ratings in customer service and ease of use.

Practice Fusion revenue is driven by partnerships with enterprise clients such as pharmacies, imaging centers and device manufacturers which are connected to the Practice Fusion platform.

From this limited examination of free EHR, it is likely not fair to hold to the adage that free often does not always equate to value. Free can be good in certain disciplines in the world of technology, particularly if we are willing to accept a few limitations. Free tech, usually comes with the caveat of system limitations and free EHR follows this trend. Therefore, when taking on a free service, don’t expect all the perks of a paid service, but also remind yourself of the money being saved as a result and factor this into any ROI calculations.

Note: pricing and market share data correct as of July 2015. Please contact customerteam@ehrinpractice.com if you would like to report incorrect information. User sentiment discussed in this article is derived from a cross-section of public reviews.

Note: as of 10th May 2016, Kareo ERP is no longer free. For more information on these changes, visit our Kareo vendor profile

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green