Jonathan Bush: Athenahealth relishes 'stealing patients'
Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush said the company is in the early stages of creating a patient market share guarantee, a national calendar asset and a master patient index.
Citing an unusual finding that both the number of patient visits and payments per visit are down a couple percent, Bush said during an earnings call with analysts that athenahealth has a small internal team working on the guarantee. Bush also offered a glimpse into some of the research and development projects and technological adjustments the vendor is making for what he called the post-Obama world.
“Most people think of same-store growth in healthcare as driving up utilization of testing for patients and driving up the payment per procedure or test. We are not going to plan on that being part of the growth scenario for the next several years and, instead, we're focusing on stealing patients from other providers in the name of our providers,” Bush said.
That is one of the adjustments athenahealth is making for the healthcare industry under the Trump administration. The other is to increase the number of menial tasks, such as authorizations, handling lab follow-ups and referrals, that athenahealth can provide for its customers.
“Much of the coding that doctors do is algorithmic in nature and there is no reason why athena couldn't pick up some of that without pretending to have any clinical judgment,” Bush added. “We're experimenting with that kind of work.”
CFO Karl Stubelis added that athenahealth will continue thoughtfully investing in R&D with a focus of working on the existing product right now.
“We're going to get to the emerging products where we're able to capitalize on them in the future,” he said.
As part of athenahealth’s push into the hospital space, Bush said it will probably enter into a new lab, pharmacy or imaging center vertical industry this year, either by acquisition or R&D.
“We are building a national calendar asset and national master patient index. We are working with the major aggregators of retail eyeballs Yelp, and Google and Amazon, so that when this calendar asset is in place, we'll be able to plug it in and doctors on athenaNet will get more appointments than doctors not on athenaNet,” Bush explained. “That work is not yet at the level of a guarantee in market. It's at the level of early R&D today, and hopefully in 2018 we'll be talking about that.”