Little footsteps toward data mobility?

These few stories may be straws in the wind, or may be little streams rushing to aAthena bigger confluence. You be the judge!

AthenaHealth kicks butt in its most recent quarterly numbers, showing a 35% increase in revenue and a change to a profit compared to a loss the same quarter a year before. This marks the second quarter that once the post-IPO euphoria cooled down, they’ve been delivering on their numbers. Now stock-wise this may all remain tricky—the PE ratio still looks like 90’s dotcom stock, but what’s more interesting is the strategy.

After adding the Clinicals EMR to the core practice management Collector product, yesterday AthenaHealth bought a little company called MedicalMessaging for $7.7 million. What’s interesting about that is that it provides a front end for doctors using the AthenaHealth system to provide those little functions to their patients like online visits, record summaries, Rx refills, appointment booking and all the other stuff that needs to go online to make today’s doctor office more user friendly.

So Athenahealth now enables it’s doctors to go up against the big
systems (like Kaiser, Caregroups et al) that are already providing those
services. And combined with the Clinicals product, they’re spreading
their footprint well beyond collections and practice management to the
point where they’re starting to integrate patient data to and from many
more places.

So what else suggests that this is starting to happen? Well just
last week McKesson’s RelayHealth — the market leader (albeit in a
pretty weak market) in email visits linked up with HealthVault. So now there are more ways for patient-centered data to be moved around.

And today via HISTalk there’s a rumor
that United Healthgroup, a big Kahuna in insurer world, has decided to
let its members data “go free” into Healthvault and Google Health.

We keep waiting for that day when data can flow and then services
can be overlayed on top. Then consumers can get more efficient
services from their physicians.

Well it’s getting a teeny bit closer.

5 replies »

  1. I don’t think anyone is even using athenaclinicals, so that will have to happen first before anyone benefits from that acquisition. Until I saw it on HIStalk, I also never knew athena offshored their billing procedures to India…a little dissappointing.

  2. Matt: Yes I think this indicates interest and a shift in attitude on the part of payors to help implement HIT.
    Peter: The cost savings implied by HIT, EMR, and ePrescribing are inherent in improving quality and efficiency of care. It is probably not going to save the doctor much if anything at all. The expense of implementing these systems if anything will increase cost for the first two to five years. Your comments imply that physicians are public servants and must subsidize your medical care and health. In today’s world that is now impossible since managed care and medicare slashed our fees. Formerly there was enough black ink to give away free care…no longer is that the case.

  3. Hey Matthew,
    I’m with you on this one. The Athena acq, while incredibly small, does signal a change that is occurring, a change that will increasingly be driven by demand. Physicians are starting to be reimbursed for e-Visits, consumers like the convenience and a younger, more tech savvy generation will simply except such. And I may not be part of the iGen, but in considering a doc I will take his/her ability to communicate with me online as a key factor to consider. Longer-term, those docs in competitive markets that do not get online will fade with their aging patients.

  4. ^^^ to tcoyote’s comment. Matthew, nice software with some good functions that I’d probably appreciate, but is the MedicalMessaging software able to talk to the Kaiser, Caregroups et al software, especially for patient records, or is this proprietary? And what does the doctor bill for an online Rx refill and e-visit, the same as the office charge, so he gets to pocket the difference? Sorry, but there’s that cynicism coming through again as I’m wondering what the sell is to the doc. Is this package free to the doc?
    “Then consumers can get more efficient services from their physicians.”
    How about less cost, is that going to be passed through, and is “more efficient services” what patients really want?

  5. Closer to what, Matthew? With respect, It isn’t about data flow. It’s about people getting their medical questions answered in a thoughtful and timely way without taking a half a day off and getting charged $200 for the privilege (and a parking ticket).
    It is great for providers to have better online tools, but how and when are providers going to change their business models to make this happen?