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View protocols to access, manage and transfer files over a data stream.

athena-Hosted SFTP: Initiate external connections by the client or third-party system to a SSH-FTP server in athenahealth’s data center. The client or third-party system is provided with an athena-issued DNS name, username, and password. Once the client-initiated SSH tunnel is established, the client is able to securely transfer files to or from athenahealth.

Locally-Hosted SFTP: Initiate outbound connections from athenaNet to a third-party or client-hosted SSH2 server. The client provides an IP (or DNS name), username, and password for athenahealth to initiate an outbound SSH connection. Once the SSH tunnel is established we can exchange files locally using SFTP.


athenahealth network operations staff can work to establish a point-to-point VPN tunnel (sometimes referred to as site-to-site) between two networks as needed. Once the VPN is in place we can perform file based transfers through plain FTP or run an HL7-receiver / HL7-sender (MLLP TCP/IP socket based transfers). Coordination of VPN staff on both the athenahealth and remote side will add additional time to the project.

VPN Connectivity Worksheet

VPN Socket: Send or receive data through a VPN via MLLP TCP/IP socket based connections. This is accomplished by running an HL7-sender on one end of the tunnel and an HL7-listener on the other end. The source system always runs the “sender” while the receiving (consuming) system always runs the “listener.”

FTP over VPN: Securely and automatically transfer files to and from the client-hosted FTP server. This option requires an established VPN and client-hosted FTP server. The client provides an IP (or DNS name), username, and password for athenahealth to initiate an outbound FTP connection.

Web Services

Web Services is a connectivity type that depends on the World Wide Web and most commonly HTTP. Interfaces such as Single Sign-On, XDS.b (ex. C-CDA), or athenaLightning, leverage web services protocols and standards. In order to complete a Web Services connection, endpoints (URLs similar to those for API calls) from the client are needed. While these endpoints provide the destination of the data, certificates (certs) provide authentication and encryption. In order to facilitate message interoperability, headers or wrappers specified by protocol such as SOAP are found at the beginning of the payload.

Web Services
C-CDA Worksheet


athenaLightning is a program that can be downloaded and installed inside of a third-party network. It opens an SSL tunnel out to athenahealth and supports file-based data transfers to and from other applications running inside the client-network.

Folder Based
Socket Based