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The Disruption of Disruptive Innovation

by Todd Rothenhaus, MD, Chief Medical Officer

I have a personal relationship with the EHR. When I was an emergency physician in a safety net hospital in Boston, I spent more time documenting encounters than hanging out with my kids.  Today, I’m still at my computer, designing the future of networked medicine as athenahealth’s Chief Medical Officer.  My team’s goal is very simple:  to let doctors be doctors.   

Over the past three years, my team has been addressing this goal by bringing athenaClinicals into the age of the network. This is the service we’ve heard our customers demand and other providers, frustrated on other platforms, petition for: a next-generation “app” that befits the future of medicine.  An experience, not a static piece of software, underpinned by an always learning, always updating network.

At athenahealth, we obsess about client performance and results, and we monitor them very closely through our network.  By looking at user behavior, it became clear to us that our old-fashioned, giant webpages took forever to scroll through, looked plain ugly, and were slowing doctors down. We also took a hard look at the business we didn’t win, frustrated that we were losing to clunky, antiquated “Windows-based” software.

So, we made purposeful changes to the physician experience that promote network-wide best practices. 

So far, the results speak for themselves: with nearly 40% of the network transitioned from our Classic interface onto Streamlined, we’re already seeing providers experience outstanding productivity. Our providers are documenting encounters more quickly, both during the encounter and after.  Staff now take on one third of the work physicians themselves typically spend on burdensome documentation.  Those are meaningful, serious improvements.

Although the majority of our clients have quickly adapted to change, some who were accustomed to our old interface have expressed frustration with the new user experience.

I understand their wariness—and their weariness.  Healthcare providers have had their chain yanked so many times by a moving goalpost of regulation and mandates and unusable technology. 

For those providers who are adjusting, we provide training support via athenaNavigator--a guided tour of the most common Streamlined workflows customers encounter on the first day--and are producing webinars for those who continue to have questions. Our Voice of the Customer team has been instrumental in aggregating questions and feedback to directly influence the product roadmap.  As a result, we’re rolling out new, specialty-specific functionality and remedies to workflow obstacles in our rapid release cycles. 

We do hope that those clients who are still adjusting recognize that the changes we’ve made will ultimately lead to better results, and less work for physicians and their staff. Rapidly innovating companies like Apple and Facebook make changes all the time that, like athenahealth, they push out to their base in single releases.  It’s this spirit of disruptive innovation and continuous improvement which will help us and our customers stay ahead of the curve.

I’m grateful to those providers who have been early adopters in reshaping their practices.  They are already crossing to the other side and realizing the benefits that we knew would be waiting for them once they got there.  For those new customers who liked what they saw, signed with us, and are scratching their heads asking what all the fuss is about, let us know what you think. And for those who are unhappy, we want to hear from you, too.  We will never censor you. We don’t do that.

The more feedback we get, the stronger our network becomes. So go ahead.  Get in touch with us in the comments section and by email.

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Submitted by George Verghese - Saturday, July 23, 2016

This is NOT streamlined. Patients are not listed in alphabetical order to write notes on at the end of the clinic, cannot enter data easily without several clicks, referral letters and consultations are hidden away behind another series of clicks, templates can be found only in the PAGES of templates previously created,not grouped as when they were first created and so on. This is terrible.

Submitted by Teresa Peterson - Thursday, July 14, 2016

Definitely not streamlined in my opinion. Have been using it over a month, have call numerous times and the CSR's I have spoken with know less about streamline than I do. Still have open cases out and have heard nothing. Very disappointing.

Submitted by Mandy Smith - Thursday, July 14, 2016

I wish Streamlined worked as you described. Our practice has been using it for a month now. It is entirely more cumbersome than before. Information that used to be at your fingertips is now hidden several clicks in and poorly labeled. It operates as though it is still in the testing phase and has so many glitches that we often can't even function. We were excited about this change until we started using it. Needs some major improvement before it becomes useful again.

Submitted by Gregory Zengo - Thursday, July 14, 2016

You just created a new system and did your best to make the best linear data entry experience for a patient encounter. My encounters are not the old fashioned paternalistic doctor-patient encounters that flow smoothly from beginning to end with the physician controlling every step.

Submitted by Gregory Zengo - Thursday, July 14, 2016

Streamlined is not integrated but it INTERFACES with the rest of our Athena-based data on our patients. This results in a slower process that limits the interaction between old and new. Very little regard was made for preserving all of the old features of the old system when upgrading to Streamlined. There is still no document that outlines every single LOST bit of functionality from Classic to Streamlined, because nobody knows all that was lost.

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