Top athenaInsight stories of 2016

By Gale Pryor | December 27, 2016

This year was a challenging one for American healthcare. Organizations took steps on the journey to value-based care and population-level health. Politicians cast doubt on the future of the Affordable Care Act. Physicians struggled with burnout and grappled with their role in the nation's opioid crisis.

athenaInsight launched in June to shine light on those issues and more, using data from athenahealth’s nationwide network of providers and patient interactions. Over the year, we delivered stories and infographics about clinical trends, innovations in care delivery, leadership best practices, and the on-the-ground effects of healthcare policy.

Here is our selection of ten stories worth reading — or reading again — as we prepare for another unpredictable year.

“What makes a physician network high-performing?”

In the shift from acute to ambulatory care, from hospital-centered organizations to regions of affiliated physicians, how is performance optimized across networks? To find out, the athenahealth research team screened 39,000 providers to identify key performance indicators associated with improved revenue. The correlations they found were telling — and in 2017, the project continues to determine the clinical markers of high-performing physician networks.


“The Patient Engagement Ebook”

It’s been called the “blockbuster drug of the century” — but it’s not a pharmaceutical. It’s patient engagement, and it’s at the top of every healthcare leader’s to-do list for 2017. This Ebook on patient engagement provides five clear and practical steps organizations can take to build stronger partnerships with patients to improve their care.

“10 things to know about MACRA”

Understand MACRA at a glance in a single infographic, loaded with information about timelines, payment options, reporting requirements, categories for payment adjustments, expected payments, and the new pile of acronyms every healthcare organization will need to know. athenaInsight will continue to keep readers current as the program develops through 2017.

“Can strong leadership boost engagement?”

physician engagement and leadership index, athenaInsight

The Physician Leadership and Engagement Index, our national survey of physicians, revealed that only 20 percent of physician respondents felt inspired to perform beyond basic requirements, are likely to be working for the same organization in three years, or would recommend their organization to family and friends.

While the results are troubling, the survey responses also revealed steps that leadership can take to increase engagement.

“The secret of Mayo Clinic’s physician-leader training program”

Physicians with leadership skills are in short supply — and have never been needed more. How are hospitals closing the gap? In this article, Steven Swenson, M.D., medical director for leadership and organizational development at the Mayo Clinic, outlines four guiding principles of Mayo’s leadership development program.

“Targeting pregnancy risk with the EHR”

The ability to mine data and identify patients in need of care underlies effective population health. Here’s one story of how it works: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists partnered with athenahealth to search 63 million patient records and identify women of childbearing age who had been prescribed ACE inhibitors — drugs that can cause fetal malformations.

3_acog_chart-980x378Their OB-GYN and primary care doctors were then notified to consider prescribing a safer drug or contraception, in this case study of the potential of “network medicine.”

“Infographic: Opioid prescribing patterns”

To understand the roots of America’s opioid crisis, athenahealth’s research team analyzed records of more than 2 million patients between 2014 and 2016. We summarized the results in an infographic. Scan it to learn which specialties prescribe the most opioids, track changes in prescription strength and duration, and view how prescribing rates differ by patient age and insurance.

“Saving the youngest victims of the opioid epidemic”

Costs of neonatal abstinence syndrome, Ohio 2014, athenaInsight, MOMS Project

In a story of hope in the midst of America’s opioid epidemic, we introduced readers to an integrated team of providers working to reduce opioid addiction among pregnant women — and improve the health of an at-risk population.

This multi-media story follows the obstetricians, family physicians, nurses, and counselors of Athens, Ohio, as they deliver wrap-around coordinated care, change lives, and cut the rate of costly neonatal abstinence syndrome.

“How a Texas community saved its hospital — and vice versa”

With rural hospitals closing at a rate of one per month, no one would have been surprised to see Faith Community Hospital in tiny Jacksboro, Texas, shut its doors for good. Then Frank Beaman came to town. As Faith’s new CEO, he repaired the culture within the hospital to earn the support of the community around it. Then, with that community behind him, he built a new $25 million hospital that draws patients and businesses alike to town.

“Fifty seats in the waiting room? Something’s wrong”

Paul Levy, former CEO of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has a pet peeve: the time patients spend waiting for care. Detailing how the BI’s orthopaedic clinic reduced wait times by 66 percent, Levy points to the role of leadership in motivating teams to lessen the waiting – and the frustration – of patients.

Gale Pryor is a senior staff writer for athenaInsight.

Top athenaInsight stories of 2016