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The Hidden Cost of Free Software

Posted Mar 17 2010 5:14pm
Sure, times are hard.  Recent changes to Medicare regulations and a unco-operative economy are causing many agencies and related home health businesses to seriously consider their futures.  And there is a big trap, out there, ready to snare unsuspecting agency owners and make their jobs even harder for them.

That trap is Free Software.

It must be understood that there are vendors of home health care software that are credible, reliable, and reputable.  But, healthcare is seen as a potential source of profitable business and there are many players that have arrived on the scene, looking for short-term profits, whatever the cost.  These players will develop a product that offers agencies the bare essentials to run a home health care business.  When a customer starts billing, then the software vendor will start to charge for their product. This is OK for start-ups and early-stage agencies.  But what happens is that an agency will lock itself in to a poorly designed system, potentially for a multi-year contract.  They will enter data, train their staff, and incorporate the product in to their agency workflow.  And when that agency is starting to really rock-and-roll with plenty of patient referrals, they find that their software choice is incapable of supporting their business volume.  At that point, it is a hard, and potentially costly decision to change to a different product and so the agency struggles on, with their software choice holding up their business growth.

What is worse is when software companies that essentially give their product away in order to secure longer term revenue, fail to be able to fund on-going research and development.  The product stagnates.  New features and functions quickly become basic expectations.  And that software company's lack of cash to invest in their systems means that their customers suffer - slow and incomplete development, skimpy customer support, mediocre training resources, and, potentially, a company that is forced to go out of business.

Where does that leave its customers?  High and dry with all their patient information stored on the remote servers of a bankrupt software vendor.

So, don't thing that free software is always good software.  Vendors have a business to run, costs to cover, and investments to make in the on-going development of a product for you, the customer, as well as a trained and talented team of customer support staff and trainers, also for you, the customer.

If you are offered a deal that is too good to be true, it probably is.  You are running your business - you know what it takes.  Software vendors have to do the same thing.  No income means a poorly run business that will probably fail.  If you are paying your software vendor for their product, you are helping to guarantee your future success.
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