Guitars, Paramedics, Linux, and Me

June 5, 2008

Open Source Practice Management Software

Filed under: Linux — S. Kindley @ 5:12 pm
Tags: , ,

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
  • Invoicing
  • 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
  • Calendering
  • 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.

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2 Comments »

  1. Hi Scott,
    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your post. It perfectly describes the problem I’m running into. A colleague and I (both psychologists) are looking for the exact software you describe above, but alas it doesn’t seem to exist. CRM has some features, EMR software has some, web-based apps from Zoho have some, but nothing has it all (while being open source). My colleague and I are considering the possibility that we may need to pay a developer to create the software we want (perhaps as an extensively customized SugarCRM). Sigh.

    One key feature that I guess is unique to practice management that we want/need is integration between scheduling and invoicing. All the proprietary practice management systems do this, but nothing in the CRM or EMR worlds do. Your feature list is very accurate to what we want. I’d also like to add some ability to sync calendar with some outside calendaring app (ultimately so I could get my calendar onto my iPhone – probably through Outlook – though I’d prefer gCal). In fact I’d like to see our ideal system integrated with google apps but as to whether that’s even possible or how that works is beyond my scope of knowledge.

    The only promising system I’ve found is Practice Fusion, but while it’s a nice system and is free, it is not open source or user customizable.

    -J. Gattis, Psy.D.

    Comment by jaygattis — November 18, 2008 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Scott,

    You should check out elementalClinic a free and open source practice management application that we’ve been working on for the past few years. We have an online demo that you can go over to see how it matches up with what you are looking for.

    Some features we’ve got out of the box that you might be interested in include:

    * A fully searchable client/rolodex system
    * Multi user and role based with strict ACL’s
    * Web based (but using Perl not PHP)
    * PostgreSQL backend
    * Full invoicing and electronic claims submissions to phTech
    * Scanned document storage
    * Ability to define assessment forms and templates
    * Scheduling system
    * Lots of included workflow

    I’d love to hear what you think at alex@elementalclinic.com

    Comment by alexemc — February 6, 2009 @ 4:42 pm | Reply


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