Health IT

Athenahealth’s first inpatient product isn’t quite an EHR, but a ‘Trojan horse’ into hospitals

trojan horseAthenahealth eventually will come out with an inpatient electronic health record, but for now, the Watertown, Mass.-based health IT vendor is content with bringing a clinical integration and communication engine into hospitals.

At last month’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Orlando, Fla., Athenahealth introduced AthenaCoordinator Enterprise, which the company described as “a first-of-its-kind clinical integration and patient access service designed to help hospitals and health systems connect and track care seamlessly across settings, networks, and disparate health information technology (HIT) systems.”

In other words, it’s a product for care coordination. “There are things that need to be done outside the EHR,” explained Caitlin Reiche, Athenahealth’s senior manager for corporate strategy. These things include activating and empowering patients, as well as analyzing the results of care via easily navigable dashboards, Reiche said.

The AthenaCoordinator Enterprise dashboard-driven interface is the result of a two-year effort to “step back and reimagine the user experience,” according to Mary Kate Foley, who serves as vice president of user experience. Her team now includes about 50 people.


Technically, the interface—which Foley called a “reimagined face sheet” or simply a “briefing” for clinicians—won’t be formally introduced until the summer, but then it will be a centerpiece of this and other Athenahealth products. It will present the physician’s work list, flagging items requiring special attention.

“At a glance, you should be able to tell the difference between a thick chart and a thin chart,” Foley said. “They should spend less than 10 seconds on a briefing.”

To produce the summary, the system pulls in recent test results as well as the assessment and plan parts of the “SOAP” (subjective, objective, assessment, plan) note created by previous doctors in whatever EHR the Coordinator system is connected to.

What is not is an actual EHR itself. “It’s a Trojan horse into hospitals,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Todd Rothenhaus. Athenahealth made a name for itself handling back-office functions and dealing with payer bureaucracy for physician practices, and now it is looking to simplify operations for hospitals, particularly as institutions start to manage the health of populations. (Rothenhaus said that publicly traded athenahealth’s population health businesss doubled in 2013.)

Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush, who is currently on sabbatical, has told the investor community that management is aware it has to develop an inpatient EHR eventually, but Rothenhaus said Bush wants to help enterprises fill in gaps in care before embarking the larger endeavor. “If we expand too fast, we’ll mess up,” Rothenhaus said.

However, Athenahealth will seek certification of Coordinator Enterprise as an EHR module that providers can use to meet Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements, according to Rothenhaus.

[Image from flickr user daftgirly]

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