OSCAR open-source EMR adoption grows quietly

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EMR vendor consolidation is happening at a rapid pace in Canada, but one major EMR system that stands apart from the crowd is growing quietly, away from the media spotlight. The open-source OSCAR EMR system is actually the second most implemented EMR system in Ontario, comprising about 20 percent of the market share, according to OntarioMD statistics. “OSCAR is growing by word of mouth. Since it’s not proprietary software, there’s no central commercial organization or sales department generating press releases to promote it,” explains Toby Bian (pictured), president and CEO of OscarService Inc, a Toronto-based company that provides OSCAR support, extended customization and integration services.

OscarService is one of the largest and oldest OSCAR support companies in Canada. Started up in 2004, the company operates in Ontario, Quebec and PEI, and services about 800 medical practices, says Bian. “OSCAR is non-proprietary open-source software, so tech-savvy doctors can install it free of charge. But most doctors don’t have the technical skills or the time to implement and maintain their EMR software, so we take care of everything for them.”

There are dozens of OSCAR support companies across Canada who compete on good customer service, says Bian. “Because there are many providers in the market, if you like the OSCAR software but you don’t like the service provider, you can easily switch to another without worrying about your data. But with proprietary EMR vendors, your only option is to switch to another EMR and start over again with a new system and go through the pain of converting your data.”

A major draw for OSCAR is that costs are low compared with proprietary vendors, even if a support company like OscarService is employed to look after the system. “The average upfront cost to implement a proprietary EMR for say, a 5-doctor clinic, would start at $15,000, and then about $300 monthly for each doctor in licensing fees. With OSCAR, it’s about $7,000 upfront, and about $140 in monthly support fees per doctor,” he says, adding that Oscar is funding eligible in Ontario.

OSCAR is Web-based but can be locally hosted as well, which means the EMR program is run from the Web but medical data can be stored in the doctor’s office. “You can choose to have your data hosted in your office. If you relocate, you just unplug the device, and all the data will go with you. You can access the EMR from home, while on vacation or from anywhere in the world.”

OSCAR has been integrated with many community labs across Canada, provincial systems such as Ontario Laboratories Information System (OLIS) and Hospital Report Manager (HRM), and most PACS systems. Developing interfaces to facilitate integration across different systems is quicker for medical practices using OSCAR, says Bian.

“If you want to integrate an external system with a proprietary EMR system, you have to go to the vendor and ask them to develop an interface. There’s no urgency or timeline for them to respond to your request. But with OSCAR, you can talk to your local service provider, who can access the code directly and respond much faster than a big centralized company.”

The over-arching benefit of OSCAR is that there are legions of users who can access and fix the source code to produce a robust system with fewer bugs, and that local service providers like Bian’s OscarService can easily customize features to create a system that works to a doctor’s liking.

For this reason, Bian believes open-source EMR systems like OSCAR will eventually overtake proprietary EMR systems, and he points to the cellphone market for historical precedents.

“If you go to Best Buy, there are dozens of different cellphone manufacturers that offer different shells – but they all use the same basic Android operating system, which is open-source. Manufacturers with proprietary operating systems like Nokia and BlackBerry are either dead or dying.”

The Apple iPhone, which runs on its proprietary iOS operating system, may appear to dominate the market, but it actually only comprises about 15 percent of the global cellphone market. “Androids are 85 percent of the market across the world. Apple is the only entity that supports its hardware and software for everyone. But for Androids, there are dozens of manufacturers that support it, so that makes a big difference.”

In like fashion, Bian believes open-source EMRs will eventually kill off proprietary EMRs over time as the market matures, and doctors grow more tech-savvy and start demanding systems that operate exactly as they’d like at minimal cost. “OSCAR has grown to number two in Ontario over the years with no marketing at all beyond the shared experiences of satisfied users,” says Bian.

For more information, visit http://www.oscarservice.com/

To access the company’s customized medical e-forms for OSCAR, visithttp://www.oscarservice.com/eform-store/

Posted July 30
, 2015 at http://www.canhealth.com/tfdnews1320.html