Why is it free even without advertisements?
Before we answer that question let us give you the two versions of software that will be discussed here and the breadth and depth of the usage of this software: namely OpenEMR and blueEHR.
Who uses OpenEMR now?
OpenEMR is a Free and Open Source electronic health records and medical practice management application that can run on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and many other platforms. OpenEMR is ONC Complete Ambulatory EHR certified and is one of the most popular open source electronic medical records in use today.
The project was started in 1998 which makes it one of the oldest electronic medical records with 16 years of history. The software is currently downloaded at the rate of 1400 per week with a total download of 300,000 since January 2005. Sourceforge statistics show that it is used in over 182 countries. It supports over 34 languages including Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Turkish, French, Simplified Chinese and Hindi
The Open Source Community Edition
OpenEMR community edition is developed and maintained by a group of volunteers who believes in the open source model. They are NOT PAID! Open source software is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone. Open source software is made by many people, and distributed under licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition.
A majority of the OpenEMR community comprises actual medical doctors who found the current commercial systems inadequate. The one size fits all is not what the medical community needed and they wanted to build a software that was flexible to fit their individual needs.
The OpenEMR community depends on the largesse of volunteers who contribute code for free, and financial backers who donate to the projects. You can read more about the project and donate to the community edition by clicking on this link to the OpenEMR Project.
blueEHR: The SaaS advanced version
blueEHR (formerly ZH-OpenEMR) is the advanced premium SaaS version developed by ZH Healthcare. It is a fully integrated electronic medical records system with practice management, ePrescription, Laboratory interfaces, clearing house interfaces, and a comprehensive patient portal . There are additional modules to manage inventory and pharmacy, in-patient management, nurses station and many more under development.
What we offer is a top quality product with a storied heritage along with support and training, and most importantly, a product which is customizable to your needs.
The Open Source conundrum
We have been an avid open source supporter for over a decade. We are one of the top, if not the topmost, code contributors to OpenEMR. We have contributed tens and thousands of hours of coding valued at hundreds and thousands of USD to the community. In fact 80% of the meaningful use stage 2 requirements are being undertaken by ZH Healthcare: See here.
We found that while the software was being downloaded almost 1500 times per week and a cumulative download of 210,000 since 2010 the project itself was struggling for money to make enhancements and meet certifications. See the request for donation here. In other words we were able to get a substantial user base but we were not able to enhance the product in a timely fashion. So it was clear that we needed to have a source of revenue to drive this project forward.
So how will we maintain these services?
We naturally thought about the advertisement revenue model, but realized that our customers will be the advertisers and not the medical professionals nor the patients. We do not want to end up catering to them and not you, our customers. As people in the healthcare industry you know very well what happens when you separate the payers from the consumers.
Free means you can use this software without fear of being bombarded with advertisements. If you see value in this product, we believe that you will pay us a fee for the continued use of our product. We also provide additional services like Medical Billing and RCM.
Socially responsible organization
We are a group of entrepreneurs who have a vision of the future. We want to reach as much of the world population as possible. We think it is truly unfortunate that Facebook has reached a billion plus people but quality healthcare systems have not reached even the entire US population, let alone the rest of the world. We believe that a Patient should be able to reach his doctor remotely, even if that doctor is across the globe. We believe that a Patient’s medical records should be collated and accessible. We believe that doctors should be able to coordinate care far more efficiently than today. And we believe that these facilities should be available to every person on this planet.
We have done a lot of pro-bono work. An example of such a work is with the Hope Clinic International who serves the healthcare needs of impoverished mothers and children in Nicaragua.
With your continued generosity we hope to do more work to help the under-served across the globe.