Thursday, November 1, 2007

Athena Health Platform and HealthVault? Just me thinking...

Just read an article in the Health Blog on Athena Health. Athena Health as you may know just had a very successful IPO. Although they initially focused on practice management functionality- medical billing etc, they have moved into the EMR space.

The back office "practice management" function (the medical billing) is a far easier nut to crack. Most doctors are already submitting claims electronically (directly or via a billing service). The EMR piece is more of a challenge and in some ways more "art" than science.

My feeling is that Athena Health should spend their efforts more on creating an interoperable "Practice management" platform in the same way Microsoft created Healthvault as a "PHR platform" rather then a PHR application. With Microsoft's approach, PHR vendors will use HealthVault as a backend platform to perform core PHR functions. In other words, Microsoft is not trying to take over the PHR space, but rather be a part of every PHR.

By creating a "Practice Management Platform", EMR vendors may design their systems to integrate with Athena Health's practice management functionality (this is done via a set of web services). The reason I say this is because those who know EMRs best are not the same people who know practice management functionality. If I was to design an EMR (which I am doing BTW), I'd much rather integrate well with a solid Practice management system than design my own.


John said...

While patient management may seem to make sense for a company like athenahealth since they are already tackling claims reimbursement, I actually like the EMR strategy they are pursuing fro a couple of reasons:
1) A lot of $$$ is going into EMR right now and the market that athena typically serves (small practices) still has relatively low adoption of EMR systems. Assume PM solutions are more prevalent as these are easier to build, sell, and deploy.
2) Small, general physician practices will have a fairly common set of requirements for an EMR. athena in all likelihood will focus here first than expand into specialties.
3) Connecting EMR to claims/reimbursements makes a lot of sense from a CPOE/workflow perspective.

Mark Singh MD said...

Good points. If Athena believes it can convert the majority of its Practice management System (PMS) customers to its EMR, then the strategy will payoff for them, at least in the short run. However, I know for a fact that a lot of doctors would not choose Athena Health because they have their hearts set on another EMR. If Athena Health is able to integrate well with other EMRs, then they may stand to make money with every EMR sale.Very much like the way Microsoft makes money off every computer sold via the Windows OS.

This of course is a long term strategy which would work only if Athena Health can become the de-facto PMS. In other words, "choose any EMR you like", but have Athena as your PMS back-end (or front end). I do think Athena is in the best position to do this due to their SaaS architecture and extensive payer experience.