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A New Hire’s Perspective on athenahealth Innovation

by Jitin Asnaani, Director of Technology Standards and Policy

For the past several years, I have studied, analyzed, predicted and even done my part to spur game-changing innovation in health information technology (HIT). During my recent appointment at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), my charge was to help determine how health information exchange mechanisms could be standardized, and thus commoditized, so that electronic health record (EHR) and HIT companies could be encouraged to innovate on more valuable dimensions. 

Our belief at the ONC was that successful HIT vendors would have to compete based on their true value to the health care provider. Could they improve longitudinal patient care or help providers deal with change management as payment models evolve?  

These are not simple feats! Getting innovative within these new dimensions requires technology providers to provide deeper, intuitive workflow integration across the EHR, practice management system and external interfaces. As if this weren’t challenging enough, successful technology providers need to help customers manage this particular tectonic shift, even as the rest of the health care industry quakes under the pressures of payment reform and population health, among others. These shifts will all happen – indeed, Meaningful Use and Accountable Care are clearly well on their way – and technology vendors will need to be ready to fall in line. 

But innovation isn’t easy. And delivering on the aspects of product functionality that truly create value for customers is even harder. That said, athenahealth is in a unique position to innovate in a way that health care providers desperately need—and that’s one reason I came here.

In this evolving space, I think athenahealth has two unique advantages thanks to its commitment as a cloud-based service:  

  1. Like companies such as Google, athenahealth’s cloud-based software excels at creating stability, flexibility and a basis for rapid innovation despite a constantly changing landscape.  
  2. athenahealth’s fundamental mission is to be the care giver’s most trusted business service. This means that the company’s incentives are aligned with those of our care giver clients. athenahealth does not charge licensing fees for its EHRmedical billing and care coordination software; instead, we only get paid when our clients get paid. This sharpens athenahealth’s focus and investment on the innovations that our clients value most.  

I believe this unique approach enables athenahealth to be a game-changing innovator and to truly enable health care to work the way it should.

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