Electronic Health Records

Selection & Replacement News

athenahealth Makes Big Move into Rural Hospital EHR Market

By Jennifer Bresnick

The rural hospital EHR market is set to see a shakeup after athenahealth’s announced acquisition of RazorInsights, a cloud-based EHR and financial management vendor focused on critical access hospitals (CAH) and smaller facilities in sparsely populated regions.  The move positions athenahealth, which has focused on ambulatory care during its rise in popularity, as a potential bidder for a segment in transition from novice first-time buyers to organizations looking to replace, refine, and optimize their health IT.

“Rural and CAH organizations may not receive the same attention as academic medical centers and large, clinically-integrated health systems, but they make up approximately 1/3 of the hospital market,” explained Jeremy Delinsky, Chief Technology Officer at athenahealth to EHRintelligence.  “They’re also innovative, important pillars of their communities, providing tremendous value and quality at generally lower costs. These providers have been unable to afford the steep price tags of legacy software installations. Our revenue model is closely tied to that of our customers; we don’t make money unless they succeed.  We think this message will gain a lot of traction in the CAH market.  From there, we will have room to climb upmarket.”

Many rural and critical access hospitals have had a hard time breaking into EHR adoption, failing to implement the advanced health IT capabilities of their more urban peers.  Strong executive support and shrewd planning can bring some rural facilities in line with their larger counterparts, but others don’t have the internal resources to build infrastructure, or develop and maintain a network of interoperable components that combine to streamline patient data in an affordable way.  Cloud-based EHRs have been a successful solution for many organizations that prefer to let their vendors do the work, and athenahealth is counting on the fact that small hospitals need a way to integrate their clinical and patient data as it flows through the care continuum.

“Our mission is to connect care,” Delinsky says.  “That means connecting providers to clinical intelligence, to quality outcomes, and to financial success. It also means connecting patients to providers in the moments of care, and to the information they need to stay engaged; and connecting all these players through a health care Internet.  RazorInsights’ services are working to the same end. Their cloud-based technology serves the inpatient and outpatient workflows of this group, and has the ancillary system capabilities (i.e. pharmacy and laboratory) to exchange information along all points of care. This approach helps ensure that information does not fall through cracks and that patients receive the follow up they need.”

This will become especially important as organizations move deeper into Stage 2 of meaningful use, and eventually prepare for Stage 3.  “It is nothing short of imperative” that rural hospitals and CAHs have the EHR infrastructure to support meaningful use in the future, Delinsky states.

“These regulations are becoming increasingly complex and harder for providers to navigate.  For those with limited resources, it’s even more crucial that their technology partner can assist to make meaningful use achievable. Ultimately, providers feel burdened by these rules because they are spending too many hours on administrative tasks and not enough on patient care. We want doctors to do what they do best: take care of patients. Luckily, RazorInsights has an impeccable MU attestation rate: 100% of its clients have crossed over the line.”

The acquisition will give athenahealth an established customer base to work with as it fully integrates the two vendors’ capabilities, drawing on the ancillary expertise of RazorInsights and the strong documentation workflows athenahealth has developed in its outpatient products.  The company will then find itself in an excellent strategic position to take on rivals in the general hospital EHR market, Delinsky predicts.

“While the ambulatory market, smaller hospitals, and independent physician groups have a critical need for cloud-based services, the advantages to this model can and should be reaped by all types of providers, including the larger hospital systems,” he says. “With this acquisition, we will be learning the nuts and bolts of inpatient IT, which will allow us to grow our credibility and capabilities. The next step is to really hit the ground running, learn, and refine.  This move simply marks the beginning.”

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