According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers Study, 79 percent of health care executives anticipate an increase on their technology spending this year. With "Meaningful Use" considerations weighing heavily on the industry, many will be investing in or upgrading their electronic health record (EHR) capabilities. And quite a few organizations will also be looking to analytics and other IT initiatives that could help them reduce costs or improve patient care.
However, expensive, proprietary software isn't the only option for these sorts of initiatives. The open source community has a wealth of projects related to EHR, imaging, and hospital, laboratory and practice management. Small practices and facilities in developing countries, in particular, have found that these applications met their needs while minimizing their expenses. We've put together a list of fifty of these applications and noted proprietary applications they resemble.
As always, if you know of additional open source healthcare software that we should have included on our list, please note it in the comments section below.
1. Cottage Med
Designed by a physician, this EHR is designed to be very, very easy to use. Although the software itself is free and open source, note that it is a FileMaker template, so you will need FileMaker (which is paid, proprietary software) in order to run it. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
Under development since 1999, FreeMED is a mature Web-based application that combines EHR capabilities with a practice management system. Asian users can get commercial support through a company called B-Mas; for U.S. users, a very active community provides support. Operating System: Linux
This project aims at helping medical providers "better document, understand, plan, and manage their patients' health and health care delivery." It's been translated into multiple languages, and the website includes success stories from practitioners who have used it in several different countries. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
This Web-based EHR and practice management solution boasts a modern, intuitive interface. See it in action with the online demo. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
5. GNU Health
An official GNU project, this award-winning application combines EMR functionality with a hospital information system and a health information system. It was designed to comply with industry standards, and it's been adopted by the United Nations University. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
Short for "hospital and experience," HOSxP is a hospital information system that includes EHR capabilities. Like Hospital OS (see below) it's used by many health care facilities in Thailand, but it is a separate project from Hospital OS. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
Also known as "Mountain Meadow Medical Records," M is an EMR program that a practice in Virginia has been using for a decade. It offers an intuitive interface and fast performance. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
This "Medical Life Guard," is a free, collaborative EHR platform. It tracks admissions, visits, demographics, history, operations, labs and much more. Operating System: Windows
Certified by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, OpenEMR boasts that it is "one of the most popular open source electronic medical records in use today." Commercial support is available through third-party partners. Operating System: Windows, Linux
OpenMRS began as a project to fix the medical record system at a clinic in Kenya and has grown into a leading open source medical record system used around the world, particularly in developing countries. It describes itself as "both just a library of API calls and a database and a default implementation of those API calls in the form of a web application." Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
Owned by Medsphere, Open Vista is the open source version of the Veterans Administration's VISTA EHR system. Because the technology has already been used extensively at more than 1500 VA facilities, it's one of the more mature and usable open source EHR's, and users say it compares very favorably with proprietary solutions. Operating System: Windows, Linux
12. OSCAR McMaster
Supported by McMaster University, the OSCAR EMR is used to support more than 1.5 million patients across Canada. It includes scheduling, e-charting, prescribing, billing, lab downloads, chronic disease management, disease registry, customizable forms and other capabilities that can be accessed via any Web browser. Operating System: Windows, Linux
Designed to be user friendly and to fit physician workflows, PatientOS is a modular, customizable EMR system. Commercial support is available through regional partners. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X
14. PHYAURA EHR
PHYAURA incorporates EHR capabilities with basic practice management capabilities, and it's ONC-certified. Paid editions add more functionality and support, and it's also available in a hosted version. Operating System: Windows
Short for "Telehealth and Health Informatics in Rural & Remote Areas," THIRRA is an IDRC-funded project that provides EHR capabilities and also allows government officials to track outbreaks of infectious diseases. It's currently being used in Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Operating System: Windows, Linux
16. Ultimate EMR
Ultimate EMR was designed for use in small practices—the type of healthcare providers least likely to use electronic records. Commercial support is available. Operating System: Windows, Linux, OS X