Functional design, usability inhibits open-source EHRs

Doctor Computer and Gadgets
Despite the low price point, open-source EHRs struggle with functionality and require additional IT resources.

Given the high costs associated with commercial EHR implementation, open-source software has become a financially alluring option for hospitals and physicians. But usability continues to plague the free software that is currently available.

Just four of the 54 available open-source EHR projects have been certified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Medical Informatics.

Additionally, 75% of open-source developers were not healthcare practitioners and 45% did not work in the healthcare field.

“Being a developer outside of the healthcare field can be a core problem for the development of usable clinical software with a high degree of functionality,” researchers at the University of California-Davis wrote. “This may serve to explain why open source EHRs have limited functionality today.”

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Among the shortcomings identified in open-source EHRs were a lack of robust security mechanisms, the need for skilled programming personnel, limited clinical decision support integration and limited interoperability.

The researchers also noted that sustainability of open-source EHRs continues to be a concern since just nine projects have emerged since 2005. But given the need to improve EHRs, open-source software will continue to be a low-cost option.