The Psychology of Free – As in Free EMR

People love Free Stuff. There is nothing not to like about it, of course, barring some catches, strings, and so on. We like the idea of Free but remain skeptical – ‘Why is it free; what is the catch?’

  • Why is it Free?
  • What’s in it for them?
  • Is there a hidden catch?
  • Is it really Free at all?
  • What’s in it for me?

That last question is really important. Let me repeat – What’s in it for ME?

Forget Marketers – let’s look at Buyers. What is the main difference between people who say –

  • I want EMR Free and
  • I will Pay for EMR, perhaps even a bit more

Payers: Value their time more than their money.

Non-Payers: Often don’t think of their time as something of value.

As Doctors, Physicians, and Providers consider EMR, each of them will base a decision on their fundamental value of time. I don’t need to tell you what your time is worth, you will make your own determination. The value of time is not just the time spent at the clinic, but also quality time for yourself and/or your family.

I have met providers of both kinds. Those who don’t mind sitting for hours in front of the screen modifying, customizing (or trying to) their ‘Free’ EMR. Sure, they would have saved a few hundred dollars per month, but if you just add the total number of hours spent multiplied by your ‘value of time’, you will quickly come to the conclusion – assuming you value your time.

On the other hand, I see providers paying a little bit more for peace of mind.

I conducted an informal survey of some provider friends with a pricing model that offers unique value. I carved out three distinct models.

(These are fictitious numbers – to illustrate a point)

  1. Free EMR, but you just get a ‘shell’ – you set it up yourself, you customize your templates, you watch videos to learn, you teach your staff. You don’t get phone support, just email support, and ‘maybe’ someone will respond.
  2. $525 per month per provider, plus $3000 upfront fees that include training, setup, and project management.
  3. $700 per month per provider, No Upfront Fees. But this also includes Unlimited training, a Dedicated ‘hot-line’ for support, and unlimited template customization.
  4. $1250 per month per provider. Everything in no. 2 Plus Practice analysis, billing review and analysis on an ongoing basis, Marketing consulting, on-site training, and so on.

I knew these people beforehand, and I had a good idea of who valued their time more, just as predicted, it was split exactly as I predicted between those who chose the Free option and those who chose the paid option. But what surprised me was an unusually large percentage chose option 3.

The logic was simple – I can make up the incremental in just one or two additional patients per month, or if I can go home even 1/2 hour early per day, it is certainly worth much more than $175 per month.

You decide where you stand. Share your thoughts with me at (I will not publish them to protect your privacy).


Author: Chandresh Shah

Chandresh Shah specializes in Healthcare IT and Medical Billing. He knows the market inside out; what works, what doesn’t. He advises and works with small business owners.

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