OpenEMR is open source, which means you are free to download, use, and customize it to your heart’s content. OpenEMR is a Free product, however, there are several caveats. The first is that, as discussed below, IT knowledge is required to maintain your OpenEMR installation, which can require professional support. The second is that Meaningful Use certification does require several third party modules that do require fees; more details on this can be found here.
A huge advantage of open source software is the ability to choose whom will provide you support. You are NOT locked into one vendor when you choose OpenEMR, and if you don’t like your current model of support or vendor, then it is very easy to change.
Depending on your comfort level, the options for support include:
The mechanisms of free support by the community include the tools found on this website. These tools include the extensive documentation found in the OpenEMR Project Wiki, the forums, and the chat. There are clinics that have gone this route successfully, however, this does require IT knowledge to ensure security, reliability and adequate backing up of OpenEMR. A real life documented example of this can be found at the OpenEMR Complete Installation Tutorial.
A huge advantage of OpenEMR is that you are NOT locked into one vendor. You can choose your vendor, and you are always free to hire (and fire) whomever you want to support your OpenEMR software. For example, if you do not like the rates or customer service of your current vendor, then you can simply fire them and hire another vendor to support your current OpenEMR installation. As a consumer, this gives you a huge amount of leverage when working with your vendor. The rates that professionals charge are varied; for example, some charge hourly (usually ranging from $40-$120 per hour depending on expertise required) and some charge monthly.
There are several things to consider when choosing a vendor/developer to support OpenEMR. Ensure the vendor/developer has experience with OpenEMR. We maintain a list of vendors/developers that specifically support OpenEMR. If you are planning to customize the software (which is very common and another huge advantage of open source software), then recommend ensuring the vendor/developer has demonstrated competence in developing code for OpenEMR. We maintain a list of vendors/developers that are ‘Certified OpenEMR Contributors’, whom have demonstrated an ongoing competence in OpenEMR development.
This is where the flexibility of open source shines and you can blaze your own path. For example, you can choose to do some items with free support, such as forms customization, and other items with professional support, such as ensuring adequate backups.