Will Open EMR Die? Will Open Source Medical Software Survive?


When we started drchrono, we contemplated using open source software to build the company.

We thought about running instances of Open EMR for medical practice clients. The idea was great in concept, we would become the “Red Hat” like company to the EMR world. There were and still are other companies doing this and it looked like a viable option at the time.

Showing our first paying users Open EMR to see if it would fit their needs, the physicians looked at the software in a skeptical way saying it was missing critical components.

We reviewed everything Open EMR over and over, it has scheduling and it’s cloud based. Sounds good right? Well there is a lot that is missing. It doesn’t really cut it. To me it almost felt like a valiant effort to a failed operating system Kernel.

I thought about it and asked myself, why isn’t Open EMR up to par with where it should be? The passion wasn’t persistent over time with the people working on it. The love that was needed to build and maintain something of that magnitude wasn’t there, it looks like the developers gave up.
Yes it is there and yes it “works”, but it is more of a starting point. It needed and needs massive amounts of work.

So we looked for other solutions and there simply wasn’t a good open source EMR with a good vibrant developer and support community around it. We thought about it, we could invest our time submitting updates to Open EMR, that was an option, but we didn’t like the technology and the lack of love that was put into the project. It felt like we would be doing the heavy lifting if we invested into the project.

Take a look at how Open EMR looks –

It was at this point we realized we needed to build our own EHR from scratch, from the ground up, it was a long term endeavor, but we committed to building the best EHR in the world. Year after year, improvement after improvement, we leap leapfrogged anything Open EMR could do. There is still a lot to do. ( I just want to thank the drchrono team for working so hard to get to were we are. )

We are meaningful use stage 1 certified and working on getting meaningful use stage 2 certified. We were voted the best Mobile EHR by Blackbook rankings who surveyed over 16 thousand physicians. We are pushing hard to be the best disruptor in the space.

Open EMR isn’t meaningful use certified, hasn’t won any awards that I have heard of. We made the right move building our own platform.

But now that we have built the best EHR, “the kernel to our operating system”, we are now focusing on having developers join the platform as we just released the drchrono healthcare API. There is so much the developer community can do to help us fix healthcare.

Coming full circle we are now allowing developers to build on the drchrono healthcare API. With 100’s of developers looking to join our vibrant community, we would love to see the open source community build on top of drchrono along with proprietary being developed.

So this is a challenge to every developer out there, build on the “new Open EMR”, our goal at drchrono is to supporting the “Kernel”, with developers building with us.

Will Open EMR Die?

The answer is no, but will the community of developers who are building the software keep innovating on Open EMR? I would say no.

32 thoughts on “Will Open EMR Die? Will Open Source Medical Software Survive?

  1. Hi,

    I’m one of the OpenEMR administrators and feel the need to correct some facts in your article.

    OpenEMR is meaningful use stage 1 certified:

    OpenEMR is also working on getting meaningful use stage 2 certified:

    According to Ohloh, OpenEMR is one of the largest open-source teams in the world, and is in the top 2% of all project teams on Ohloh:

    OpenEMR is use domestically and internationally:

    Check out the OpenEMR website here:

    Brady Miller

  2. We are continuing to innovate on OpenEMR, there are new contributions weekly, sometimes daily. The screen shot you show are from 2 versions back and two years old. I don’t have an issue with you building your own and opening it up, that’s great and the way it should be, but don’t step on a viable, active community when you do.

    • Apologies Tony! It’s great to hear that you guys are working hard on making OpenEMR a viable alternative to what is out there.

      I am a true believer in the Open Source movement and want there to be options like OpenEMR.

  3. We’ve been using openEMR for 5 years or so and it is now the backbone of our multi-provider clinic. It does everything from appointments before the patient comes in to registration, documentation, prescription, billing and reporting. The ease of setup and use without any need for training is amazing.

    As for “meaningful use”, a major upgrade was done last year and I believe it is now fully compliant. We don’t use those modules as we are based in Pune, India. The openEMR forum is vibrant and thriving. There is at least one issue being avidly discussed by technical people and end users every day

  4. Those are very old screen shots, there is a lot of active work and new contributions, and one of the things our clients love about OpenEMR is how quickly we can customize the workflow and content of the patient encounter to fit individual doctors needs. I don’t actually know any doctors/office managers or other staff who care if the patient demographic entry screen is exciting anyway? There are other things that get them a little more turned on! Congratulations on your accomplishments and opening up your software, it can only lead to a better product, and from the screen shots it does look nifty.

  5. Our Ophthalmology practice has used OpenEMR for nearly 2 years. Setup was a DIY project. No professional support has been necessary thus far.

    In this day and age of medical practice in the U.S., it is impossible to run an office without electronic billing.

    Our sole cost to-date has been $5.99 for a new SD card for backup.

    We are quite pleased with OpenEMR and most pleased that it is truly open source.

  6. The link to the Drchrono healthcare API is not working. Is the API open to developers yet or not? If not, will it be in the future?

    Janir Thorndike

    • The initial release we are opening it up developer by developer but we are making the process easier by having a “sandbox” default developer environment for anyone without review. This should be coming shortly in the next few months.

  7. Your screenshots are a bit misleading, a properly configured install of OpenEMR set up to meet the provider’s needs looks much better than that. We have had many physicians tell us that our data entry/patient encounter forms are far superior to the multi-million dollar systems the big hospitals use. OpenEMR also supports fully capable e-RX and lab interfaces. OpenEMR is MU Stage 1 certified and will be MU Stage 2 certified when the time comes as well.

    It’s nice that you’ve created a different product, and I believe physicians should have choices in the world of EHR systems.

  8. Hi Daniel,

    Although you had a few facts wrong, I agree with you. OpenEMR looks old and feels even older. The code is a mess, files with html, css, javascript, and php scramble together. I must say they are improving, slowly but improving.

    We went through the same dilemma.

    send me an email 🙂

    Ps. Your API link still broken

    • Ernesto,
      Thanks for the vote of confidence on the slowly improving OpenEMR. It’s a big and venerable project with a enthusiastic and dedicated group of volunteers. I don’t disagree that it has warts, but, unlike proprietary SW they are warts you can see and fix (over time). I encourage the development of new FOSS projects in this arena, it can only make us all stronger.

      President of OEMR.org

      PS: OEMR.org is interested in expanding to support other FOSS EHR and related tools….

  9. Hi…
    I agree with Brady and Tony…OpenEMR is a gem. I am using it in India and it has everything. It is the most flexible software with great workflow. We dont have insurance billing in India, but its only openemr which can be used both for insurance and self pay billing. I can configure it as I like and build forms as I wish as per my need. The vibrant community of OpenEMR is the best of class and one can always finbd and discuss issues here. Me as a doctor, I vote for openemr. Thanks to the community of OpenEMR and developers like Brady, Tony, Rod, Kevin, ZH, Visolve, Julia and others who are constantly improving the product. Thank you Openemr for everything.

  10. OpenEMR seems to be having problems in getting Meaningful Use Stage 2 certification. They have been working on it for 1.5 years now and still not done. This is a bad example of too many cooks (vendors and contributors) and none has all the expertise to do it right. OpenEMR is good for those who have IT skillsets but bad for non-technical users. Getting support from different vendors to address different needs (e-prescribing, patient portal, etc.) is a nightmare.

  11. MU2 is a lot more about funding than it is about too many cooks. Options are a good thing for users, all they need do is choose a vendor that supports all the features.

    Currently the advance Patient Portal is part of the code that is not included in the main source code base, so that is an minor issue. But that will soon change as we bring a MU2 compliant Patient Portal fully in house.

  12. OpenEMR is a good example of how opensource should not be done. Like the author above, it’s not just full of spaghetti codes, it’s schizophrenic. In addition to a GUI built for the last century, the system is full of bugs. Just read their forums, simple things don’t work. Die, just die.

  13. Hi All,
    There are Many EMR Software around India but when it comes Usage there are many defects.When it Comes to open emr there is no Flexibility Features to all and they are Developing I must say they are improving but slowly

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