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Free electronics medical records software? Yeah right.

If you are ready to get an EMR for the first time, or thinking of switching your EMR in favor of one that is free, don’t ignore the yellow flashing lights. Don’t let the word “free” blind you to the more sobering facts. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch and this is especially true when it comes to EMR software for your practice.

Before you are lured into signing an agreement, beware. Even free things carry a price tag, and for a medical practice that price can be quite hefty in terms of your practice’s efficiency and even its future solvency. Don’t let the euphoria over “free” obscure the downside about free EMR systems. 

The case of Google sheds light on one way in which we wind up paying for free things. Sure, Google offers us a no cost vehicle with which to send and receive emails. But, every time we log in, we’re inundated with ads that reflect our Google history. Google, which derives its revenues from ads, is monitoring our browsing, and sharing that information with marketers who target and deliver advertising to us. In the end, our security and privacy are compromised.

The Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy regulations require health care providers and organizations, as well as their business associates, to develop and follow procedures that ensure the confidentiality and security of protected health information (PHI) when it is transferred, received, handled or shared. This applies to all forms of PHI, including paper, oral and electronic. Healthcare practitioners must protect patients’ privacy and data. 

You simply cannot allow someone to access your database to glean patients’ information. Selling patient data is tantamount to a breach of security. Yet, many firms that offer free EMRs are in the business of selling deidentified patient data to pharmaceutical and insurance companies, as well as other entities, thereby compromising patients’ privacy.