Health IT

athenahealth-Deaconess EMR deal is all about the social, mobile and cloud-based future

Athenahealth and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka made a big splash this morning with news of athena’s acquisition of the renowned Boston teaching hospital’s  web-based EHR system. The move is notable in that it gives athena significant credibility as it pursues the big hospital market, but it also underscores both immediate and […]

Athenahealth and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka made a big splash this morning with news of athena’s acquisition of the renowned Boston teaching hospital’s  web-based EHR system. The move is notable in that it gives athena significant credibility as it pursues the big hospital market, but it also underscores both immediate and long-term trends in the EHR world, Halamka told MedCity News.

“The hope is that the country will have a much more agile approach to health IT,” Halamka said, referring to the inherent flexibility of a cloud-and-web-based system over the multimillion dollar in-house systems that still dominate much of the hospital world. “My belief is that we should have an app store for health if you are a patient. The notion of a web and cloud-base is very much supportive of that ecosystem.”

As a Harvard teaching hospital, Beth Israel could seemingly have its pick of vendors, but Halamka and company have decided to forego the server-based approach for something more nimble and more able to share information on a wide scale.

To be clear, Halamka and Beth Israel aren’t recommending any one vendor, per say, but the approach is important, and athena’s propensity to buck tradition helped establish a mutual goal, he said.

“I don’t endorse any one product, but what I can tell is it’s my belief that the vendors of the future should embrace this kind of thing — social, mobile and cloud,” Halamka told MedCity News.

As for the deal with athena, Halamka said the Watertown-MA.-based company approached Beth Israel about four months ago with the idea of sharing a system. Beth Israel is one of only a few big-name academic medical centers to craft is own system, webOMR, which appealed to athena, one of the early adopters of cloud-based EHRs. Halamka noted that athenahealth’s “More Disruption Please” accelerator encourages innovation and collaboration beyond athena’s financial stake, and that appealed to an academic research hub that wants to share and promote best practices and findings.

Within the next six to 12 months, more vendors will likely adopt similar tactics and move away from the so-called data silos that stem from big, server-based systems, he said, especially as the health system rethinks its revenue sources and as the system looks to achieve interoperablity.

“I think what we’ll see is the EHR vendors shift from just documentation to care management,” he said. “We’ll see the evolution of new products. I see six months from now the market shifting and standards becoming avaialable, and new innovations happening. As hospital margins continue to diminish, you’ll see more hospitals say ‘I have to shift from less capital-intensive products. In a year or two, you’ll start to see that demand.”

More broadly, Halamka said the health IT landscape will, eventually, evolve to a more consumer-focused tech sector, and that hospitals would come along with it.

“Healthcare IT will take a lesson from facebook and Amazon, and suddenly it will be an ecosystem that allows hospitals to adapt,” he said.