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All I Want for Christmas are Your Big, Fat Problems…

by Jonathan Bush, President & CEO

The year is coming to an end as I report to you from my desk job here in the back rooms of athenahealth, where we take on the operational work for practices and health systems. (And if you’re not yet a client, we’d like to take on yours!) I’ve been happy to do the work, and it seems you’ve been mostly happy with it. But I’ve learned a lot putting in long, arduous hours back here and, frankly, I’m ready for more. I’m asking for a promotion.

What kind of promotion, you ask? Look, I’ve been back here in this room for 15 years tracking claims and managing documents and I may know things about your business that even you don’t. I understand you might feel protective about your big strategic and business problems, and might not want to let me in on it all. But I’d love to take them on, so just let me into one board meeting a year. I’ve got good stuff.

The destiny of all software-enabled services like ours is to become strategic advisors that are more effective than even the most influential and well-compensated consultants. Because of the athenahealth model, our business outcomes are already aligned directly with yours, so we have a literal investment in your organization’s well-being. And our cloud-powered services put us in a unique position to know more about the sources of your problems, and to pinpoint potential solutions quickly. We also know, and can often predict, how problems may manifest elsewhere in your organization.

What I Want to Do for You
We have the ability to know exactly what percentage of our clients’ referrals don’t turn into a match. And we can determine the percentage of your diabetic patients that are out of control—and which ones haven’t been told about it. Really.

We may have the top rated patient portal in the country, but our product managers still spend their time focused on new and better ways for your staff to connect with patients using our technology. That is good and important work… but I’d also like to focus that technology on reaching out to those diabetic patients that need to be engaged.

athenaNet, the application and platform for all our services, has the ability to do so many things for our clients that it isn’t doing today. It can be a health system’s answer to TripAdvisor, where a locally branded window into athenaNet’s patient portal allows consumers to move across the care continuum without having to repeat registration or even basic clinical information. It could even be an emergency broadcast system for clients when patient demographics suggest that a flu outbreak may be coming to their region.

Even from this back office, I can see the world out there has changed dramatically in the past 15 years. Patients are empowered now more than ever, and when we’re able to tap into that movement, you wouldn’t believe the results. With a client in Texas, we were allowed to contact every Medicare beneficiary who hadn’t had a wellness visit with an automated reminder call—and of all patients reached with that and similar appointment reminders, 30% made an appointment!

Who out there gets a 30% uptake on robocalls?

My Christmas Wish
So here’s my Christmas wish: Promote me. Let me take on your bigger, more challenging work. I’ll still do everything I do today, happily. I love it and thrive on it. But let me handle your normal lab results. Let me do a better job presenting patients with a level of information they can handle, rather than the industrial strength, cookie-cutter, templated information overload they receive today.

I know part of your reluctance to give me the promotion may be that I’ve not been working for you that long. We’re growing so fast that most of our clients have been with us less than three years! But the more you let us in, and the more of your challenges you let us take on, the better we can do for you. We will not succeed solely on the fact that our software is ranked highest. We will succeed only if we are viewed as best in the world at helping caregivers do well by doing the right thing.

You’ve trusted me to run your backroom and we’ve helped each other succeed all these years, so thank you for the work and for your business. Now please give me your bigger, thornier problems. I’m ready.

Check out Jonathan Bush's Google+ Profile. Follow @Jonathan_Bush on Twitter.

Jonathan Bush is the President and CEO of athenahealth.

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