Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush shares his evolving dream of innovation

From bad software to better cloud services to a platform that fosters an ecosystem of internal and external innovation, the EHR executive explains what’s next.
By Bernie Monegain
01:19 PM
Jonathan Bush athenahealth

LAS VEGAS -- Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush said the company he founded with former US CTO and advisor to President Barack Obama Todd Park began with bad software. That’s right. 

“We literally built a company proudly on the fact that we had bad software,” Bush said during an interview at HIMSS18. “Little by little by little as we got bigger and bigger and bigger that bad software made it harder for even us who knew it so well to use.” 

What emerged from those early days, however, is an appreciation for design and user experience -- not just for customers but also for internal and external developers and innovators. 

“You’ve got a couple thousand developers,” Bush said. “They need a really beautiful, easy to use environment to make a big impact themselves. So that’s what we’ve been really focused on.”

That initially led athenahealth to advance its approach to innovation, connectivity and data exchange by building a platform to enable those. 

“Our dream is to get all these customers on the cloud and do our own iterative releases of our products,” Bush said. “But also to invite people who aren’t us to build products using our technical staff as a platform.”

Bush is working to orient the company toward moving all of athenanet to a series of self-contained micro services that would allow developers to work faster, but also making it possible for developers to come in and walk around athenanet “pretty hard” and build a product without breaking anything.

“I went from ‘we have to let other tech companies connect to athenanet and to the base,’ where we are now, to ‘you’ve got to actually let other people build in athenanet,”’ Bush said.

With so much talk about interoperability at HIMSS18 and year-round in the healthcare industry, Bush explained that athenahealth is connected to 96 percent of the Epic install base via a node on Epic’s Care Everywhere network. It means athenahealth has to trade with any other entity on that network.

“You can’t pick and choose,” Bush noted. Athenahealth records, in turn, are available to Epic shops such that any hospital that uses Care Everywhere on Epic has to trade with any other entity on that network. 

Today, Bush encapsulates his 20 plus years leading athenahealth as preparing the company for challenges ahead.

“We’re coming out better on the other side,” he said, “in a better position for doing the right work.”

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer:

Want to get more stories like this one? Get daily news updates from Healthcare IT News.
Your subscription has been saved.
Something went wrong. Please try again.