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Jonathan Bush’s Plea to Regulators: Free the Data

June 3, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Jonathan Bush, CEO of athenahealth

At the Omni Shoreham regency ballroom at Health Datapalooza IV, Jonathan Bush, CEO of the Watertown, Mass.-based EHR software company, athenahealth, urged the government to release Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data more freely, to a packed, supportive crowd of approximately 2,000.

Bush’s exuberance stole the early portion of the conference, which has become an annual gathering in Washington D.C. focused on health data transparency. In a 26 minute speech, Bush covered a number of topics including the evolution of athenahealth, his admiration for the Meaningful Use legislation, and his three pleas to regulators. The three pleas included a) release CMS data to any entity that can use it to manage risk, b) expand the accountable care organization (ACO) model and c) legalize an open market for health information exchange (HIE).

The excited Bush, who recently advocated for better investment and entrepreneurship in healthcare IT, said he appreciates the CMS releasing more public charge data, but he said he wants the government to release more claims data.

“We have plenty of information to embarrass them, we just don’t have any information to save them any money,” Bush said to the audience.

Bush also mentioned the recent overturn of a 33-year-old injunction from a federal judge that barred public access to a private database of Medicare insurance claim. In terms of the ACO model, Bush used a metaphor saying regulators couldn’t let “foxes” (as in hospitals) guard the hen house. This will only lead to moderate results, without them truly incentivized to manage the risk.             

The CEO of athenahealth ‘s overall message to the crowd was to build a bigger business model than themselves. He said he wanted data scientists to be the sexiest job and to get there, he had three business ideas for those in the audience: use the cloud, take down data silos, and bring care down to the lower level.