Does the concept of FREE Medical Software exist in the Healthcare Marketplace?
Who doesn’t love a bargain? I like saving money just like the next person but have you ever thought as to how a FREE product could eventually affect your business? Can you really trust your livelihood, making payroll, and managing patient care with a FREE medical software program? Those who say ‘yes’ are more than likely just happy with status quo regardless of the limitations they may face. In this particular post, I’ve decided not to include the actual medical software company name I’m referring to, as I figured they’ve had enough of a challenge in the press lately.
Are They Stable?
In the past 6 months alone, this FREE medical software company has laid off 25% of its workers to create a positive cash flow. They’ve been slapped on the wrist by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission after reaching a settlement after charges that it misled users of its patient portal into reviewing their physicians-often including sensitive medical information that was then posted online. Within the last 12 months it has shuffled around some high level employee positions in hopes of an impending IPO.
From the outside looking in, there is so much more to a medical software company however one could say that after this kind of news, it’s time to open your eyes.
After nearly 13 years of working with award-winning Practice Management and Electronic Health Records software, I’ve seen a lot, stood on the sidelines surrounded by product acquisitions, and have experienced enough to keep me content for quite some time.
As we are all aware, the healthcare industry is full of moving parts from government mandates, pharma breakthroughs, new developments in disease treatment and more! And let me assure you, whether you pay now or later, your FREE software isn’t as it seems. If we parallel the term Opportunity Cost (economically speaking) with a new medical software implementation, time and money will both be involved. More than likely, you will go through similar steps with your FREE medical software as you would a paying medical software program—one of the biggest differences may be the scope of available resources, efficient implementation structure, personnel on hand or training tools. Your team will need to train on a new system and that won’t happen overnight. A few practices may contact an IT Professional to ensure all computers meet spec for Cloud or Server based optimal performance. Some practices will re-construct patient flow in the new software so it runs like a fine oiled machine. Lastly, the creation of Charting templates typically don’t occur with a wave of a magic wand. I don’t know how many providers want or are willing to use templates right out of the box, the ones I know all want to put their personal touch on documentation efforts. In order for a successful product launch, a practice needs a myriad of options and flexibility when it comes to the Clinical component. Scheduling delays are more than likely a reality when it comes to instituting a new system throughout a practice as well. I am having a hard time trying to see how FREE medical software would be advantageous at this point. I nearly despise the following statement but have to deploy it because it rings true in the medical software arena, “You get what you pay for.”
It’s bad enough most physicians are combating alert fatigue, burnout or having to refocus on a variety of electronic devices on a daily basis; who needs an advertisement on the screen while entering in important patient data. A provider’s view no matter where they are at in the software should remain laser sharp on the patient’s care not reading or clicking on some ad to learn more. As Benjamin Franklin referenced in Advice to a Young Tradesman, “Time is Money.”
Items to consider
I am currently working with a 5 physician group who has this FREE medical software and are dumping it. They’ve quickly learned an important lesson and now have the desire to work with a progressive software manufacturer who will help transform their practice into the future. Don’t get me wrong, in the medical industry there are surprises around every corner and no medical software is safe from being acquired, going into maintenance mode—which means no further development is taking place, going bankrupt or being sunsetted all together. I tell prospective medical offices that since my crystal ball is in the shop, it is difficult for me to predict what is to come. What I do suggest is making sure the foundation of the respective manufacturer is solid because their product output will be directly affected if it isn’t.
Another way to conduct a health check on a software company is to see how many times they come out with a forward-moving product update. Are steps being taken to aggressively prepare and address new government directives, are enhancement requests from users actually instituted or ignored, and is the company under scrutiny more often than not?
When are business owners and providers going to wake up? There is no such thing as a FREE medical software program. Maybe you don’t have to pay any money upfront or on a monthly basis however the concept of Opportunity Cost does come into play. There are so many things to consider and I think some providers are quick to make a decision or jump on the neighbor train to get on board with what their colleagues may be using.
In reality, each and every medical office is unique and should be treated as such. Every staff member in your practice will be affected by this software decision. A Clinical data conversion of patient records can be costly so would you rather select a so-called FREE system now and pay for it later by having to change to another software program because the FREE one didn’t pan out? Or select the right software program that is vested in technological advancements, superior customer support, physician satisfaction as well as patient engagement and enjoy the benefits of knowing that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Dana Deardorff is the Office Administrator at MediPro, Inc. She is working toward her 13th year in the medical software industry and specializes in the many challenges independent physicians face in today’s healthcare marketplace.