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CloudView blog

Ideas and insights to help health care providers stay informed and profitable in today's challenging health care environment.

Introducing athenaCoordinator: Care Coordination to Benefit the Whole Community

by Jonathan Bush, President & CEO

We have some big news to announce.

Today, we signed the papers for the planned acquisition of Proxsys LLC, a provider of cloud-based patient access and care coordination services based in Birmingham, Alabama. Learn more about the pending sale in our press release.

If all goes according to plan, we will launch a fourth service, to be known as athenaCoordinator, sometime during Q3 2011. By integrating Proxsys into athenaNet, information would be able to flow more easily throughout the health care supply chain, improving care coordination for current and future clients. It would be the latest piece of the national health information backbone we have been steadily constructing.

Buying Proxsys would allow us to turn care coordination, referral, and order facilitation services into an immediate, market-ready reality. It would also put us one step closer to achieving our vision of an information infrastructure that helps health care work as it should.

Here’s a quick look at how we got to this stage. As we developed our prototype for care coordination and referral services, we realized it needed some help. During pilot testing, we learned that it couldn’t always function in the often incongruent health care supply chain. Different systems mean data can’t be easily exchanged. If that’s not clear, let’s use Facebook to explain. Millions of people seem to enjoy sharing vacation photos or finding old chums from high school on Facebook, but all the sharing they do within Facebook can’t be done outside it without a duplicate effort. If your old pal wants to remain on LinkedIn Island, you can’t easily trade wedding pictures. The same is true in health IT. Sharing patient data over different systems means, at the very least, expensive, slow, and duplicated steps.

But imagine now if docs could “friend” or be “friended” by the entire health care supply chain in their network! Imagine if they could zip a patient, with no duplication of effort, to where he or she needs to go and then the patient gets zipped back the same way! That of course is what the athenahealth vision is all about—to build an information infrastructure that helps health care work as it should.

Yet we have tons of medical tests being duplicated because results are lost in the gaps between different systems, and legions of patients are lost to follow-up because they weren’t properly connected to where they need to go next.

Of course millions of dollars (oh, and lives) are at stake, but the fact that the right lab or doc is on the wrong network is a crappy excuse for having uncoordinated care…really crappy. Again, this was a roadblock in our early care coordination trials. And since only so many providers in the world are actually on athenaNet (sadly), we weren’t going to be very good coordination-of-care enablers if we only helped people go from athena to athena.

Then we found Proxsys.

Proxsys reminds me of a deep cuts, oldies version of athenaCollector. It was founded in 2004 and its magic is getting patients from docs into ancillaries and hospitals electronically and seamlessly…REGARDLESS of which systems those hospitals are on, and REGARDLESS of insurance rules. They have been on a noble mission to wade through scut work for their clients…and it is a holy mess. Yet they remain undaunted. Even if they are waiting on hold with insurance companies to get the right pre-certification themselves…or typing patient data into some disconnected hospital system that can’t take an interface…their service coordinates the delivery of the right info from doctor’s office to hospital (or wherever) with shocking accuracy. Way better than that mammography phone number scribbled on an index card that you got last time, eh?

We immediately knew that we wanted to include Proxsys in the athena family so that we could make those deliveries of information with shocking accuracy for all our clients, and so THEY could deliver that information for their patients. Needless to say, our “last mile team” and process gurus and developers are veritably weeping with joy at the things they could do to combine our insurance connectivity with Proxsys’s incredible manual wherewithal to create efficiency. In the meantime, we would be able to send ANY patient from ANY doc to ANY hospital, REGARDLESS of what system they are all on.

Is the picture coming together now?

Now I wouldn’t be a future enterpriser if I didn’t point out that we could make those transactions a lot cheaper and a lot better if one side (or BOTH sides) in the exchange are on athenaNet…but you wouldn’t have me any other way, right?

I am grateful beyond words that Proxsys founder George Salem had the faith in us to believe that we can help carry that mission forward. So let’s get ready to welcome athenaCoordinator to the family—care coordination that benefits the WHOLE community.

Jonathan Bush is the President and CEO of athenahealth.

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