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Most Interesting Vendors 2016: athenahealth: Accelerating its Growth in Hospital IT

May 25, 2016
by Heather Landi
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The “disruptive” company looks to shake up the hospital and health system market

This year, as in past years, Healthcare Informatics has designated three vendor companies in healthcare IT as “Most Interesting Vendors,” and is featuring profiles of those three companies in its Healthcare Informatics 100 issue, which this year is our May/June issue. The “Most Interesting Vendor” designation is not an award, but simply a recognition. The trajectories of all three companies speak to some of the broader trends taking place in healthcare IT in general and in the healthcare IT vendor market, and are thus of interest to readers. On Monday, we published the story of Leidos. Yesterday, as the second of three articles, we profiled Nuance Communications. In this third article, we profile the Watertown, Mass.-based athenahealth.

In early 2015, the Watertown, Mass.-based athenahealth, the provider of ambulatory cloud-based electronic health record (EHR) systems, made quite a splash when it jumped into the hospital market with two strategic acquisitions of inpatient EHR systems. Athenahealth bought RazorInsights, a provider of cloud-based EHR systems to small, critical access hospitals, in January 2015, and then a month later announced a deal with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) to acquire its in-house webOMR solution.

And that momentum hasn’t slowed as the company is currently working on developing its EHR solution for large hospitals and academic medical centers, through a co-development deal with the University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC). As part of that deal, which was announced earlier this year, UTMC will transition off its current EHR and will go live on the newly developed solution, athenaOne for Hospitals & Health Systems, later this year and into next year. That deal clearly solidified athenahealth’s strategy to steadily push into the acute care EHR market for larger hospitals and health systems, putting it in direct competition with the major hospital EHR vendors such as Cerner.

When the deal was announced, athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush said the two organizations would work together to “build a disruptive alternative to legacy health IT solutions that supports healthcare providers across the entire continuum of care.” When speaking publicly, Bush frequently refers to the company’s mission of advancing connectedness across the care continuum through its web-enabled, cloud-based services as “building the healthcare internet.”

Jonathan Bush

“There are a number of benefits that we believe we will gain from a partnership with athenahealth,” David Morlock, CEO of UTMC, says. “Athena is a proven company on the outpatient setting and they are a cutting edge group, so we saw the opportunity to move into the inpatient EMR space with them, under their model with aligned incentives. And it’s cloud-based and web-enabled, so there is the opportunity to integrate the inpatient and outpatient records.”

He continues, “The leadership at athena has a fundamental view that an EMR and healthcare IT system can be different than what we’ve seen in the marketplace over the course of the last decade, and we share that thinking with athena.”

David Morlock

The company, originally founded by Bush and Todd Park in 1997 as Athena Women’s Health, a women’s health and birthing practice in San Diego, Calif., got its start in the health IT space as a developer of practice management systems. The company has built its reputation among ambulatory providers and independent physician medical groups, while also steadily expanding its suite of network-enabled services for revenue cycle management and medical billing, patient engagement, care coordination and population health management as well as Epocrates and other point-of-care mobile apps.

The company reported $924.7 million in revenue in 2015 and was ranked No. 15 on the Healthcare Informatics 100 list  this year.

Gaining Ground with Small Hospitals

With the acquisition of RazorInsights last year, athenahealth extended its presence into the 50-bed-and-under inpatient care space, which makes up about one-third of the U.S. hospital market. Started in 2010, RazorInsights, at the time of the deal, provided its cloud-based EHR systems to 25 organizations among rural, critical access, and community hospitals.