Filemaker Pro 12 for the clinic – successes and failures

by David Pope

Physio clinic software, particularly for the iPad and the Mac is not exactly what I would call great at the moment, and I started this trial of Filemaker Pro with high expectations. So far, this trial has been a mixed bag of success and a fair dose of limitations.

Here are some of the features I think are essential for a great iPad clinic note taking app:

  • Easy access to all of a patients details – phone number, referral source etc
  • Able to be used on the iPad
  • Ability to access the calendar and notes from another source eg an iMac at the front desk
  • Security. Notes security, so patient notes are not accessible by outside sources
  • Body chart – the ability to easily draw and write on the body chart
  • Checkboxes Yes and No for Red flags, Cauda Equina, pins and needles etc
  • Ability to add fields for various components of the history which you regularly ask or write notes on
  • Integrated Calendar, and ability to view/add appointments to other therapists calendars
  • Integrated/view payment history for a patient
  • Ability to write notes
  • Ability to add photos and videos to a patients file
  • Ability to export the data and notes
  • Integrated TextExpander support

There are plenty of other points, but these are some of the main features.

Here is where Filemaker stands from my experimentation at the moment. I want to preface this with an explanation of my experience in this area. I am a Physio with a pretty decent grasp of computers and software ie not completely computer illiterate, but have zero experience with Filemaker. I have used Bento on the Mac and iPad, which is pretty easy software to get your head around. So in these aspects, I think this makes the review applicable to the average clinic, who are unlikely to be expert Filemaker users either. Undoubtedly, experts on Filemaker could add to what I have done, but you are probably as unlikely as I am to have one of these working for you.

Positives of Filemaker Pro

  • Nice looking templates (if this is important to you). I think this is important, particularly if you are using it all day.
  • Importing data – “fairly” easy to import data. I had a number of tries to import data from Bento, which is supposed to be easy, and this took a while to get it import in the correct format, with the right checkboxes ticked etc. This probably took me 2 hours.
  • You can easily view the patients details, address, referral source etc
  • You can write notes
  • Easy to add pictures and video
  • Ability to add checkboxes
  • Ability to export the data
  • Supports Text Expander

Limitations of Filemaker Pro

  • Setup is reasonably time consuming to get the right fields and import patient data. This would take about 1–2 days for the average clinic. Saying this though, most software would take some time to setup and integrate.
  • No ability to draw on a body chart in the app. There are ways, such as drawing in another app, exporting as a pdf, importing it into the patient file etc. This is too timeconsuming, and just wouldn’t happen
  • No integrated calendar (that I can find), with links to all previous and future appointments
  • No ability to share/view calendars with other therapists in the app
  • No integrated SMS ability
  • No payment history linked to the patients profile (that I could find easily)

So, as you can see, it may suffice for a clinic as a patient database (albeit expensive compared to Bento), but is not really ideal as notetaking software from my experimentation, especially with the lack of ability to draw on a body chart within the app, and lack of calendar support to view previous and upcoming appointments for patients.

What do you think? Have you had more success than I have? What clinic software do you use and like? Let us know in the comments below…


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  • Octavio Mellado

    Thanks David, very helpful article.

  • alia

    awesome post. I am in the same boat as u, purchased it to create a Patient db and note writing app. Newbie, still stuck with the steep learning curve. Bento was useless as it doesnt do relational tables…

  • I haven't made much progress with Filemaker Pro, as I reached the limitations of my Filemaker development experience and decided it wasn't the way forward for me without investing a large amount of time. I recently heard about custom development of Filemaker through Humane Development at

    It is a Beta program, but may be worth looking into if you are keen on Filemaker Pro


  • Great article! This is exactly my point of view. I still can't even find a good program on the market by now (2012 almost 2013).

  • Good one Dave, I had a trial of the Filemaker Pro, & subsequently decided to get different software after reading this. You've saved me hours! (by me I mean my practice manager). I reckon it's pretty rude of software companies to charge an exorbitant upfront fee plus the ongoing support cost, which led me to try this. I now have web-based software to solve the compatibility problem with macs & it's only a monthly fee without the upfront cost.

    • Ruth

      What is the web based MAC software you are using? I'm interested to try moving into MACs.

  • You need to maximize your Filemaker capabilities by adding plugin. So far I am successful in making Family Oriented Electronic Medical Record which i s now the standard electronic medical record for all family physician's here in the Philippines.

  • Jos

    i’m using Writeupp which is cloud based. It costs about $30 per montha nd you can make your own templates and submit them and they add them in. It’s UK based which can make a few things tricky (I’m in Oz) but they are really responsive to feedback and very helpful.

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