Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush is in a deconstruction state of mind

A major overhaul of the company's structure, with new standalone micro-services leading to more products than are currently available, just might result in "marvelous change," he says.
By Bernie Monegain
07:05 AM
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Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush

Jonathan Bush, the voluble co-founder and CEO of athenahealth, is overhauling the company he founded with Todd Park in 1997.

In the next 12 to 24 months, he and his team will have completely deconstructed athenahealth into a set of standalone micro-services that will result in having many more products than the company offers today, he told Healthcare IT News. The shift will also allow many other people to make products.

As Bush sees it, the change will render obsolete buying a complete stack – database, patient directory, provider directory, order sets, procedure codes, diagnosis codes.

And there’s more shaking up to come.

Athenahealth debuted Epocrates Connect, an athenahealth mobile app in March at HIMSS18, for instance. The system uses machine learning and language processing to give providers information and help coordinating patient care.

It's likely to help physician burnout, said Bush.

[Also: Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush shares his evolving dream of innovation]

"Part of the reason for the increasing burnout rate is the replication of pointless tasks across the system," he said.

"You have all these isolated stacks of the same information on people," he added. "Maybe one’s at the insurance company. One’s at the hospital. One’s at the surgical center. Every time someone does something, that patient is replicated and shipped off somewhere and gets into a queue somewhere else."

As Bush sees it, it would be better to have everybody looking up the same person in the same place.

[Also: Athenahealth to show new tech to ease burden on doctors at HIMSS18]

"Nationally, there is no interoperability," he said. "You’re just working off a platform. Everybody is operating on the same service."

He points to Amazon as a company that serves as a platform for lots of people who are not only competitive with Amazon. "Everyone expects to operate that way," he said. "Certainly, it's what Apple expects."

Bush is buoyed by the recent healthcare moves by Apple, Google and Amazon.

"The likes of Amazon and Apple are pulling up seats to the table and they’re speaking our language – talking about cloud-based platforms, patient engagement, data accessibility," he wrote in a March 23 post on LinkedIn.

[Also: Next up for EHRs: Vendors adding artificial intelligence into the workflow]

"It's exciting for an antiquated industry like healthcare," he explained. "We absolutely need to better loop patients into the cycle of healthcare and there's great opportunity for big tech to splash here – and splash big."

Is Bush remaking the athenahealth? Yes, somewhat, he said.

"I'm not remaking the vision or the mission. But I'm adding a business model and I’m remaking the tech deck."

Bush is also changing the operating model of the company, he said, which is "going through a painful, confusing, marvelous change."

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com