I have long been involved in the development of php based ERP/CRM/CMS software. It has always been curious to me why more professionals such as Lawyers, Nurses, Doctors, and even Consultants have such as small representation in the world of free and/or open source practice management software.
I do not want to give the impression there are no alternatives to proprietary software because there certainly are some out there. The problem is there is so few. Perhaps it is the specialized nature of each respective discipline or maybe the regulations and rules each field operates in that creates problems for developers.
Perhaps developers need some guidence in what a particular field of practice requires. For example I was contacted by a friend who does freelance IT administration work for a local Vetrinarian clinic. They were looking for a web based practice mangement solution with billing. I searched for months for an open source package and found a few that addressed a couple specific needs, but none had the whole package. Furthermore, writing the required features into the code proved to be an excercise in re-writing the entire software offering. This was way more work than a single consultant like me was prepared to engage and still meet the planned time frame the Vet required.
So the short version is the Vet finally resorted to paying for a very expensive proprietary tool and is still locked into that vendor. So what is the solution?
I propose that a generic open source software program without the discipline specific functionality should exists so that developers can take that basic framework and add to it to satisfy specialized needs. Native programs, web based, or both. It doesn’t matter.
My idea of a perfect base for a practice management software solution would be one that has (in no particular order):
- A searchable client database/contact list
- A time tracking tool
- Multi-user; with different roles
- Web based using php
- postgreSQL backend
- Document storage on a per case/encounter basis
- output to ODF, RTF, and PDF formats
- Forms and Templates for common communication (i.e. pleadings, letters, prescriptions, orders
- Work Flow – work delegation and followup
I could probably list more, and I have probably left out a few important things, but this should be enough to get a practice management solution started so that developers could take a framework to market and modify it easily to fit any given field of practice.
I would appreciate your thoughts and/or experiences on this subject.