It turns out, there was no cage at the experimental debate earlier in October between me and Girish Kumar Navani of eClinicalWorks. And Girish was wearing a shirt…and no mask.

These, plus other anticlimaxes, sent our PR guy John Hallock into a deep, week-long depression.

“He could have gone for the jugular!  Why didn’t he go for the jugular?!?”

This was all he said for days.

The truth is that it’s hard to get too snippy with a guy who has built such an awesome company—WITHOUT VENTURE CAPITAL!  It’s just an incredible accomplishment.  That, combined with his incredible intuition around software design, made him a guy I really wanted to hear from…rather than jump on.

Also though, I heard Girish start to say words that for most plain ol’ software company leaders are “un-sayable.”  He said he wanted to host for his clients.  He said he wanted to maintain their data for them.  As a private company, I think Girish is in the best place to go the rest of the way.  Why not insist that all ECW clients get on a shared instance?  Why not start to take on some of the functions that cause so much frustration (34% of new athenaClinicals clients are actually frustrated software-based EMR clients!) These acts would destroy ECWs profits for a few years but they would emerge a genuine candidate for national HIT backbone, along with athenahealth.

We need that…a lot more than we need more versions of software.

Jonathan Bush co-founded athenahealth, a leading provider of internet-based business services to physicians since 1997. Prior to joining athenahealth, he served as an EMT for the City of New Orleans, was trained as a medic in the U.S. Army, and worked as a management consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in the College of Social Studies from Wesleyan University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

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