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Let’s Do It Again, This Time with Meaning

by Jonathan Bush, President & CEO

I’m more excited about the Humana-athenahealth Medical Home EHR Rewards program than anything else we’ve announced in the past few years. It’s true. I said it on camera and now I’m saying it on our blog.

Why?

For years, health care experts have been touting pay-for-performance models that reward physicians for improving patient outcomes as the key to health care reform. EHRs are considered the linchpin in making these efforts work on a national scale—after all, that’s why more than $20 billion of our tax dollars have been spent on incenting doctors to adopt them. The government is hoping that within five years, these efforts will pay off. But who wants to wait five years? We at athenahealth certainly don’t.

For the first time ever, a nationwide payer (Humana) is using an electronic health record, athenaClinicals, to inject specific information into the physician practice workflow that will help doctors give better care. This can only be done with a cloud-based EHR where clinical measures are immediately available. Imagine the strength of that, a patient being cared for as a huge information network flows to them right there in the exam room, through the EHR, from around the nation. If the doctors document information, deliver care, and prepare orders as the EHR guides them to, they will be rewarded through incentives above their normal fee schedule. With these rewards, high-performing practices could earn as much as 20% more than their current fee for service payments. To encourage adoption of athenaClinicals and participation in this program, Humana is going to help subsidize implementation costs of athenaClinicals for 100 practices, which they estimate to represent 1,000 physicians.

The official news has been released over the wire, there are stories in the papers and interviews on TV. We even have a separate page on our athenahealth website. And it’s in the Twitter-sphere.

I’m over the moon. I believe that our partnership with Humana is a game changer.

Many have tried to get EHRs into market by leveraging available subsidies. In contrast, this is about real dollars, with real benefits for the doctors, patients, and payers. This is about taking the next step toward tying payment reform to clinical outcomes—which isn’t predicated on a massive government program that won’t show success or failure for many years.

From the White House on down the order is innovation. This is private sector innovation. This is industry working together, flexing muscles and moving fast. Such motivation to innovate may have been what the government intended when it launched the HITECH Act.

Well, it worked.

Jonathan Bush is the President and CEO of athenahealth.

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