Free Practice Management Software: Top Solutions in 2020

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One of the most common problems faced by small and mid-sized medical practices is finding enough time for the patients. In fact, the entire livelihood of a clinic depends on its ability to efficiently handle its administrative tasks. This means finding a way to quickly handle data entry and sorting is absolutely essential for making the practice profitable and successful. That’s why more and more medical clinics choose to adopt practice management software, which can include free practice management software.

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Best Free Practice Management Software

Also known as medical practice management, PM or MPM software, it can not only make running your day-to-day operations much easier, but also greatly improve the quality of your patient care in the process.

But in some cases, spending on practice management software just isn’t viable financially. So where do businesses turn from there? Is free practice management software a viable option? And if so, what are the top vendors to look out for?

This article will attempt to answer these questions, and provide SelectHub’s top free practice management software offerings.

How Do You Know if Your Practice Needs Help?

Clinics that have been working for a long time usually have their own systems in place for dealing with day-to-day tasks. Often the administrative systems in place are quite efficient simply because they’ve been improved over time and with the growing experience of the staff.

But it could still be better. According to a 2019 survey by Kareo, administrative tasks that detract from patient time is still a challenge for 70% of practitioners. Clinics can save an incredible amount of time by automating the manual parts of the various processes such as setting appointments, medical billing and insurance claims.

A comprehensive practice management software solution extends to every area of medical clinic operations, making everything more efficient. In turn, this frees up doctors to spend more time with their patients.

But some practices don’t have the resources to pay for a premium practice management software solution, so they end up looking for free alternatives that can provide similar functionality.

Can Practice Management Software Be Free?

While most of the leading medical practice management solutions cost money (lots of money, in some cases), there are free options that might be right for practices that don’t have the resources to pay for a premium option.

These can be separated into two main categories. The first one is free practice management software that supports itself by running ads on the software’s interface. As such, instead of a practice paying for the software, it’s paid for by advertisers who want to reach their target audience of doctors, nurses and other clinical staff. In order to remove the ads, vendors usually charge a fee per user, in which case it would no longer qualify as free software.

Another option is to use a free version of a premium software. This can work if all you need is a few simple functions, because the free versions of these software solutions are usually quite limited in terms of their functionality, especially when compared to the paid versions.

This kind of a free software solution is convenient if you want to test out a paid practice management software before purchasing it. As a standalone solution, however, it’s quite limited because of the restricted functionality.

So the big question is, can free practice and patient management software be sufficient for clinics? Or are there just too many drawbacks for it to potentially replace paid solutions? Well, here are some of the main benefits and drawbacks of a free solution, so you can shed some light on this topic.

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Benefits

It’s Free

Obviously, the biggest benefit of free medical practice management software is that there aren’t any fees – at least not initially. You can enjoy the functionality and features that the software provides without having to pay recurring subscription fees that are usually associated with premium solutions.

As you surely know all too well, finding ways to reduce the expenses of running a practice is essential for its survival. According to one estimate, regional practices can cost up to $300,000, so every dollar saved is very important.

No Commitment

While there’s an implementation process for setting up a practice management software solution, whether it’s paid or free, the level of commitment with free options is much smaller when compared to some of the paid solutions.

Because of its somewhat limited functionality, free practice management software solutions are often much easier to adopt and use in your day-to-day tasks. Whether it’s a cloud-based or on-premise software solution, with free solutions can often be as simple as logging in or downloading and installing the software on a computer.

Essential Features

Even though free practice management software has its limitations, in the end, it’s a functional solution that offers vital features such as billing, claims processing and scheduling, just to name a few.

If you use the free software to its full capabilities, you can reap tremendous benefits for your practice without having to pay a monthly fee.

So while it’s not likely that you’ll be able to find the same range of features as with paid solutions, that doesn’t mean that free medical practice management software isn’t still very useful.

For a list of features to look for in a practice management software, our extensive features article is a good place to start.

Drawbacks

It’s Limited

While free solutions do provide core functionality that’s quite helpful, they still come stocked well short of the leading paid options that offer premium features.

The customization options are also very limited, and it may not integrate with other software that your clinic might be using. Even if integrating a system like EHR (electronic health records) or EMR (electronic medical records) is possible, it can be complicated when done with a free patient management solution.

The ability to easily integrate back-end systems is essential; otherwise, the staff is stuck manually transferring a lot of data, which is not only very time-consuming, but can also lead to numerous errors and inaccuracies in your data.

Hidden Costs

Sometimes a seemingly free practice management solution can be deceptive. While you’re technically getting a free medical practice management solution, the limited functionality could end up forcing you to upgrade to the paid version.

That’s why it’s essential to carefully analyze what features are included in the free version, paying special attention to noticing where there are limitations to the usage of the software. Sometimes, you might get a bundle of core features for free but need to upgrade or purchase some additional features that you may discover are necessary.

Narrow Selection

Because practice management software is complex and needs to offer an extensive range of functionality, most of the free options that are available are either trial versions of paid solutions or rely on advertising for most of its revenue. Either way, the main goal of these free systems is to make practices switch to the paid version to either get the full range of features or turn off the ads.
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Top Free Practice Management Software

OpenEMR

OpenEMR is an open-source practice management and EMR/EHR tool. It offers full functionality on a self-hosted server for free, with options for upgrade to an SaaS platform for a cost. It seamlessly welds medical records and practice organization together, with in-platform scheduling, record keeping, finances and external communications, both with patients and services like labs and pharmacies.

OpenEMR

A calendar in OpenEMR

OpenEMR lands on this list for these features:

Open-Source Community

A community of more than 1,600 users offers assistance in every facet of software use, from customization to developing code to simple general use questions and answers. Community app developers assist with the implementation of new features and bug fixing, with thousands of attentive eyes on the platform.

Reporting

Practice managers get access to automatically generated reports varying from patient and appointment information, such as immunizations and referrals, to insurance management, sales and collections.

Lab Integration

Orders and procedures can automatically be sent to labs in-platform. The lab results are automatically integrated into a patient’s chart and record for physician use and review.

Patient Portal

Patients can log in from their own device to schedule appointments, fill out paperwork, complete patient demographics and communicate with their physician.

Clinical Decision Rules

A decision rules engine informs decisions about patient treatment and increases quality of care through the use of clinical quality measure calculations. The engine can issue reminders to both physician and patient, and integrates Meaningful Use measurements.

Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

Solismed

Solismed focuses its efforts on independent and free clinics. It streamlines day-to-day tasks with internal communication, scheduling, record keeping and more operations and practice functions. Self-hosted deployment is free, and cloud hosting is offered for a fee. All features are offered free of charge, excluding e-Prescribing, which comes at a setup and subscription cost.

Solismed

Solismed’s dashboard feature

Some features that help Solismed stand out include:

Communications

All members in a practice can communicate in-platform. It takes communications a step further by sending faxes and letters and transcribing phone calls for more convenient review.

Dashboard

An intuitive dashboard with notification-style tasks helps practitioners prioritize and focus their day and stay organized. The dashboard synthesizes practice, financial, inventorial and other pending tasks in one place, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks.

Customizability

The platform allows for customization of preferences and modules, allowing for support across multiple locations, clinics, users and user types. Important lists and reports like supply, immunizations, radiology and patient databases can be tailored to a specific practice.

Walk-In Support

Walk-in support synthesizes employee scheduling, communication, inventory management, patient records and charts to enable new encounters to be rapidly generated and fulfilled. It helps clinics with collecting available necessary resources to address unscheduled patient intake and interaction without disrupting the workflow of regular business.

Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
Platform:

Company Size Suitability: S M L

Dr. Pad

Dr. Pad is the only mobile-dedicated offering on this list, and the only to offer apps for both Android and iOS. It centralizes a practice’s operations and makes them available on a physician’s or administrator’s personal device. It is limited somewhat by its mobile-app-only nature, but is suitable for small and some medium-sized practices. Practices can handle their schedules, supplies, records, patient communication, documents and more from their phone.

The free version stores data on-device, with cloud storage coming at a cost, further limiting its ability as a free option, but SelectHub’s experts have deemed it among the top offerings available despite this.

Dr. Pad

The Dr. Pad home screen

The following features make Dr. Pad a viable free practice management solution:

Mobile Support

As we’ve already noted, Dr. Pad is the lone product on this list to offer both Android and iOS apps. Other solutions offer usability for both via browsers, or just an iOS app. Dr. Pad allows both sides of the aisle to work together with the system they’re familiar with, and organize their practice from a mobile environment. It achieves all necessary features without leaving the app.

Prescriptions

Physicians can submit and patients can fill prescriptions from the app. Patients do not have to worry about losing a piece of paper, and just have to keep track of their phone to fill prescriptions. The order can be printed from the app as a PDF.

Templates

Navigating small screens can be difficult, so the app contributes templates for notes, medications, certificates, immunizations, emails, text messages and more to streamline production of documents and more. It also allows the creation of templates for reuse, allowing practices to easily create the documents they use the most.

Adaptive Authentication

Adaptive authentication lets different users get different access to what they need to do their jobs, be it administrators, practitioners, assistants or even patients to make appointments, fill out forms or access prescriptions. These logins can be verified via social media logins.

Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
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Company Size Suitability: S M L

NOSH ChartingSystem

NOSH, or New Open Source Health ChartingSystem is developed by a practicing physician in Portland, Oregon named Michael Chen. True to its name, it is an open-source platform, with several GitHub repositories allowing clinics to download and alter the code as they see fit. All features are free to use, with an additional cost for e-prescribing integration.

NOSH ChartingSystem

NOSH ChartingSystem’s home screen

NOSH stands out for these reasons:

Tagging

Encounters and files can be flagged with customized tags to increase organization. These tags can be searched and aggregated, further helping practices stay organized. Administrators or physicians can query all their encounters, documents and messages by age, issues, supplements, medications and more.

Care Timeline

A chronological encounter chart intuitively displays patient care, treatment and progress over time. It is accessible and editable by both physician and patient, allowing each to be more informed in the treatment process.

Database Incorporation

Implementation of four major databases, SNOMED-CT, CPT, ICD 10 and FDA drug, let practices use the most up-to-date codes, terminology and treatments in their practice.

Claims Management

Claims can be exported via PDF format in batches or solo. These can be sent to external clearinghouses for processing. NOSH allows tracking these claims and their remaining balances in-platform.

Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
Platform:

Company Size Suitability: S M L

One Touch EMR

One Touch EMR is a web-delivered or iOS app-based solution with scaling pricing plans, including a viable free offering. It synthesizes practice management and medical records into an intuitive platform. It is fully HIPAA compliant and Meaningful Use certified.

One Touch EMR

One Touch EMR’s appointment list

These features are recognized by SelectHub’s expert analysts:

Superbill

Thorough superbills can be tweaked, customized and reviewed before delivery. Comments can be made and it can be passed to different users in the system for review, clarification and correction. Once all is verified and cleansed, it can be saved as a PDF or printed.

Administration

An administrative menu gives an overview of operations, separate and distinct from specific patient care. Thorough customization lets administrators run the practice exactly as they need, including across multiple locations.

Encounter Summary

Deep patient records can be tailored to display any and all information relevant to a patient. Available modules include a history of current illness, patient personal history, medications, allergies, point of care and more. An in-depth encounter summary lets physicians stay organized and up to date on treatment.

Communications

Internal communications allow all members of the system to stay connected. An internal faxing module streamlines document sharing and sending, including to external entities. It also allows for phone calls to be made directly from a patient’s chart.

Price: $$$$$
Deployment:
Platform:

Company Size Suitability: S M L

When is Choosing a Free Solution a Wise Choice?

Free practice management software solutions often have limitations that make them inferior to most paid options. However, there are instances when a free software might be a wise choice.

If you’re a solo or small practice that’s just starting out, sometimes there simply isn’t any room in the budget for a paid practice management system. In that case, even a free option is better than nothing. They can be a good alternative that provides at least some of the functionality you need in order to help make the practice run more efficiently.

But this is also changing. As more products join the market, the price is falling, and free options are becoming more viable. As indicated by NOSH, it’s possible for tech-savvy practices to even develop their own solutions if they are unsatisfied or unable to pay for it. Practice management software is diffusing to the masses more and more, and as competition rises, quality does as well. It is entirely possible to find a long-term solution to practice management without spending.

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However, the top-of-the-market offerings with the most dynamic and thorough features still come at a cost.

This is why it’s a good idea to at least consider the additional features and benefits that the top medical practice software vendors can offer. Even if you have to pay a price for the premium option, the benefits it can bring to your practice are likely to far outweigh the initial costs in the long run.

SelectHub can help steer your company toward the best software for your needs. Our requirements template can give you specific guidance on what to look for in a software and our in-depth comparison report pits products against each other based on those criteria.

What affordable practice management software have you used? Did you find it as viable as a paid option? Let us know in the comments.

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Richard AllenFree Practice Management Software: Top Solutions in 2020

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