Let your medical practice go open source with Gnumed

Jack Wallen
Oct 20, 2009
Updated • Feb 13, 2018

Gnumed is an open source management tool for medical practices. If your practice (or a practice you do IT for) is in need of an electronic record-keeping system, and you do not want to have to shell out your entire IT budget for a proprietary solution, Gnumed might be the perfect tool for you.

Gnumed is developed by doctors and programmers from around the globe and is gaining plenty of traction. Gnumed is broken into a client and a backend server and is released for both the Linux platform and the Windows platform. In order to use Gnumed you do have to have the Server up and running. You can, however, demo Gnumed by connecting to one of the public demo databases.

For the purposes of this introductory article, we will connect to the public demo. In a later article I will outline setting up the backend server for Gnumed.


Fortunately the Gnumed client will be found in your distribution repositories. So to install the software you will only have to follow these steps:

  1. Open the Add/Remove Software utility.
  2. Search for "gnumed" (no quotes).
  3. Select the results for installation.
  4. Click Apply to install.
Figure 1
Figure 1

There are a few dependencies to meet, but the Add/Remove tool will take care of that for you. Once installed the application can be started from the Office sub-menu of the Application menu. When you first start Gnumed you will be welcomed by the connection window (see Figure 1). In this window you enter your credentials and connect to a server.

For those that are just testing out Gnumed you will want to connect to the public testing server. Here is the information to enter in order to connect to the public server:

  • Backend: public Gnumed database
  • username: any-doc
  • password: any-doc

Once the authentication is successful you will be greeted by a welcome screen warning you that, since this is a publicly accessible database, any data you add will be lost. Once you OK that window you will see another window that requires you to set the database language. By default the language will be "None" and it needs to be set (for the demo) to "en_US". To do this all you need to do is click the Set button.

Figure 2
Figure 2

After the db language is set the main window will open (see Figure 2).  As you can see, all entered patients are listed in this window. From here you can do just about anything you need to do. And that is the crucial question. Just what can you do with Gnumed? The feature list includes:

  • Appointment managment.
  • Client creation/import/management.
  • Staff management.
  • Allergy records.
  • Forms and letters.
  • Inbox.
  • Track patient progress.
  • Doctor journal.
  • Document management.
  • Drug information.
  • Built-in report generator.

A word of note: The public database is fairly slow, so your experience with Gnumed may seem a bit lackluster. Do not assume this is the case with a private database, because Gnumed runs much, much faster when using a local backend.

Final thoughts

Gnumed is an outstanding open source tool for medical practices. With similar features as very costly proprietary solutions, any practice looking to cut costs need look no further than this application. Now, in our next look at Gnumed we will visit setting up a backend server so you can begin to actually use Gnumed for your practice.

Let your medical practice go open source with Gnumed
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Let your medical practice go open source with Gnumed
Gnumed is an open source management tool for medical practices. If your practice (or a practice you do IT for) is in need of an electronic record-keeping system, and you do not want to have to shell out your entire IT budget for a proprietary solution, Gnumed might be the perfect tool for you.
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  1. Wil Hob said on October 26, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    How to install Gnumed?
    Yor write:
    to install the software you will only have to follow these steps:
    Open the Add/Remove Software utility.

    It is wrong.
    How can I start to work with Gnumed ?

    1. Sebastian Hilbert said on October 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm

      Hi Wil,

      I am unsure I understand what you mean. It depends on what Linux you use.
      See http://wiki.gnumed.de for the full details.

      If you use Ubuntu make sure you add the package repository as described in the Wiki. Then install gnumed-client. The start GNUmed.

      If this does not answer your question you are welcome to contact us via the mailing list or forum.

      Full details are available at http://wiki.gnumed.de

      Sebastian Hilbert

  2. Sebastian Hilbert said on October 21, 2009 at 6:50 pm


    My name is Sebastian Hilbert and I am one of the doctors involved in the GNUmed project.

    1) GNUmed currently comes without billing for the US. That is going to change. Contact http://www.palmedtech.com for details. They are offering support and most likely will offer billing support for GNUmed.

    2) GNUmed is *not* new and unproven. GNUmed is unknown in the US but is operational in offices in Germany. After all we are doctors and care about stability a lot more then a few other vendors I know of.

    3) 90K invenstment and 30K support fees ? Those are dream figures in Germany. Our health system requires highly complicates EMR and billing modules which have multiple certifications and the cost 3K once and 2K per year for support.

    4) A support industry will form quickly once GNUmed has billing. Virtually every local IT shop can do it. I agree that physical support is needed. We recommend that GNUmed and billing are seen as different entities. Support for billing module will have to be offered by local entities. That is the business model. We are doctors. We write GNUmed because while more feature rich applications exist in Germany none of them support doctor’s workflows the way they should.

    5) The US government effort will be fun to watch as you already have quite capable software like VA Vista. I still fear that lobbyists will persuade government to go for established high priced vendors with questionable track records.

    6) GNUmed and GNUcash could work together. However billing for healthcare providers is not what is typically done by GNUcash. Special modules need to be developed (and currently are under development).

    7) Always stay up to date. Version 0.3.9 in this article is outdated. Linux distributions update GNUmed every 6 months. However we are releasing bug fixes more often. We are at 0.5.1 now.
    See http://wiki.gnumed.de for the latest software and documentation.

    8) GNUmed 0.6 series will feature a very nice drug prescrition and documentation plugin. It is developed around the needs of general practioners and will offer interfaces to drug databases.

    9) We welcome anyone (coding skills or not) to participate in the GNUmed project. Find more info on http://wiki.gnumed.de

    Sebastian Hilbert

  3. Rodalpho said on October 20, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    The US government subsidies are for medical records and billing specifically. They set aside enormoous subsidies over the next 3 years, something like twenty BILLION dollars. If docs don’t go digital before subsidies end, they will have to pay out of pocket, and they can be extremely expensive.

    Docs don’t have a great deal of price sensitivity when it comes to this kind of thing. Only those owning their own practice need to worry about it at all, and while the software might cost $90k with $30k/year for support, it’s all obviously a business expense. But $90k is $90k.

    Support quality is of course a huge concern as well; all the docs I know expect someone to physically come to their offices to fix issues. Unlike many other expensive services, physicians are distributed throughout the US as people get sick everywhere and depending on specialty earning potential is often immensely higher in rural indiana than downtown SF. I expect entire cottage industries to start up built around those subsidies just to support the software.

    That’s not to say that open-sourcing medical records isn’t a great idea, as the very few vendors selling this stuff make an enormous profit for a product that is at best workable. Competition is a good thing.

  4. Jack Wallen said on October 20, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    @Rudalpho: That is interesting. I just had a conversation with a friend who works for one of the largest consulting firms here in my home state about this (which prompted the article). He has been doing installs for medical practices and there has been no influx of Government monies in this area.

    Hopefully Gnumed will get some integration into billing. Wouldn’t it be great if Gnumed and Gnucash could work together?

  5. Rodalpho said on October 20, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    While this is a neat idea, it has several issues.

    1) The US government wants all US docs to go digital and will pay for software, hardware, installation, configuration, and even ongoing support for billing software to integrate with medicare/etc for the first couple of years.

    2) Gnumed is new and unproven. This software is used for mission-critical applications and needs to be integrated into billing. Not going to be used.

    3) There’s only one source of commercial support, and their webpage is in German.

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