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8 reasons NOT to choose free veterinary practice management software

8 reasons NOT to choose free veterinary practice management software

Free veterinarian practice management software may sound like music to any practice manager’s or owner’s ears, especially if the practice is known for offering low-cost care. After all, even basic software programs should be able to streamline operations and improve the customer experience, right?

In this article, we’ll look at why the reality is more complicated than that, and how you can avoid the risks of relying on a purely budget-friendly veterinary software option. 

8 reasons why free veterinary software is a risk to your practice

The reasons why you shouldn’t adopt a free PIMS (practice management system) will likely be familiar to anyone who’s ever tried to save a buck only to spend more in the long run. We’ll break down how these concepts apply to your veterinary practice. 

Limited functionality 

Your software needs to do more than call up the basic details on the animal. From appointments to billing to inventory management, free software often lacks the advanced features needed to complete tasks efficiently. Plus, many free software products feature some degree of overlap or redundancy to their tools and apps, which can lead to confusion amongst the staff about which ones to use. 

Data security concerns 

Your customers depend on you to keep financial and personal information safe. Free software may not prioritize data security, which can lead to security leaks or breaches. 

Consider that criminals have become more adept at identifying which programs are easier to hack, making free practice management software a prime target. Plus, if you work with third-party vendors, free software can inadvertently give them access to the wrong information. 

Poor data security is more than just the risk of compliance violations, it’s also reputation loss that can lead to the shutdown of a practice. 

Hidden costs 

It may not cost you anything to get the software, but if you want to improve it and maintain it, there can be hidden costs waiting in the wings – for instance, if you wanted to add new payment functionality to the software or if the systems quit unexpectedly. 

These small additions can add up to hefty line items. You can imagine how you would end up spending more over time compared to the upfront cost from a more reputable veterinary software provider. 

Unreliable support

Free software providers offer various degrees of customer support. So while they may promise full availability to a practice if there’s an outage, the reality may play out very differently in the wake of a crisis. 

The longer a problem goes on, whether it’s a small technical snag, a massive data breach, or a catastrophic weather event, the more wrenches will be thrown in your daily operations.

Lack of updates and maintenance 

All software requires regular updates and maintenance to defend against bugs and streamline compatibility with the rest of the practice’s technology. 

Free veterinary software providers may fail to follow these sometimes grueling update schedules or they may fail to perform updates at all. If your software isn’t airtight, you open the door to legal risks for your clinic. 

Vendor stability 

Free veterinary practice management software is only as good as the vendor providing it. If the vendor hasn’t worked through their business model or they can’t generate enough revenue, it can make their endeavors precarious at best. You may find that a once-responsive team becomes extremely difficult to reach. 

You may even see the vendor abandon the project to pursue a different venture, leading to either inconsistent service or no service at all. If the software provider goes under entirely, you may be forced to unexpectedly switch systems. This leads to migration problems that ultimately result in lost or otherwise compromised data.  

Integration challenges 

From accounting software to lab equipment, free veterinary software can’t replace all software in a practice. 

If the free veterinary software doesn’t play nice with others and doesn't offer essential integrations, you can end up facing endless disruptions in your daily operations, making the clinic run less efficiently than before the so-called efficiency tools were brought onboard. 

Scalability issues 

Small clinics don’t always stay small. If your patient volume increases or you want to offer new services (e.g., surgery, testing, etc.), your free software may not be able to expand to fit your needs. This can hold practices back, especially if the staff grows too dependent on the functionality of the software. 

Tips on buying veterinary software 

Veterinary software is the glue that holds a practice together. It needs to be flexible, easy-to-use, and reliable, with enough customer support to back it all up. From integrations to reporting to customizable features, every practice will have different priorities when it comes to their technology.

As with all new business decisions, you also have to consider the adaptability of your staff. It’s never easy to switch systems, as even the most well-oiled of practices will face logistical snags to get everyone on the same page. 

Keep in mind that just because a software is chock full of customization tools, that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to use. An influx of features can sometimes only confuse and frustrate staff, leading to weakened morale. 

💡 If you’re having second thoughts about whether free veterinary software is right for your practice, check out our Complete Buyer’s Guide for a more thorough understanding of the advantages and drawbacks to different options on the market. 


Meredith Summers

Meredith Summers is a professional freelance writer for people who want to get more done. She enjoys reading, going to the beach, and brief descriptions of herself.