AthenaHealth Paying Dearly to Take on Larger Rivals

Athenahealth is a high-flier in the Boston business community, led by the outspoken and forceful Jonathan Bush. Bush, however, openly admits that his Watertown, MA-based company (NASDAQ:ATHN) is relatively unknown outside of local business and technology circles—including among most U.S. physicians. Athena has been ramping up efforts to raise its profile among doctors, the target audience for its Internet-enabled billing and electronic health records services. Yet the company has been criticized for the relatively high price of the push…

…To compete with larger firms in the EHR game, Athena has been trying to allay the concerns of many physicians that they will ultimately end up losing money by deploying the records systems. Bush says that Athena might be able to halve the amount that physicians pay to use its EHR if they participate in what is now a nascent effort at the company called “AthenaCommunity.” Athena’s EHR customers who opt to share their patients’ data with other providers would pay a discounted rate to use Athena’s health record software. Athena would be able to make money with the patient data by charging, say, a hospital a small fee to access a patient’s insurance and medical information from Athena’s network. For a hospital’s part, this might be cheaper than paying its own staff to gather a patient’s information through standard intake procedures. Hallock, Athena’s spokesman, says the community is in development and is slated to launch later this year.

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