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AthenaHealth Wants to 'Unbreak' Healthcare

By Gregory A. Freeman  
   June 29, 2016

Hallmarks of an unbroken system are total connectedness across the continuum of care, humanity, and alignment with incentives to drive the right outcomes, a senior AthenaHealth executive says.

AthenaHealth is launching a campaign to "unbreak" healthcare in the United States, inviting players from all corners of the industry to address software roadblocks and other systemic problems.

"If we're honest, most people would say healthcare is broken today," says the company's chief marketing officer, Tim O'Brien.

He calls the campaign "a rallying cry for the industry." AthenaHealth is a provider of network-enabled services for electronic health records, revenue cycle management and medical billing. 

O'Brien describes an unbroken healthcare system as marked by a total connectedness across the continuum of care, humanity brought back to the moment of care, and aligned with incentives to drive the right outcomes.

"We're spending three billion dollars and people aren't living any longer. Most physicians would not recommend the practice of medicine to their children, we're losing primary care doctors, and doctors are selling out to health systems because they don't believe they can navigate all the regulatory complexities and hurdles that we've put in front of them," he says.

Software issues are involved with many today's problems in healthcare, O'Brien says.

Providers are angry and frustrated with electronic health records. Information-sharing across healthcare settings remains elusive; and associated financial losses are forcing some health systems to the brink of collapse.

Beyond addressing software challenges, the Unbreak campaign will take on what AthenaHealth calls the government's "series of false starts, sluggishness, and waste" regarding healthcare improvements.

A key goal is to improve the continuity of care so that a physician will actually know what happens after discharge, such as whether the patient went to the recommended specialist or complied with medication instructions.

O'Brien says AthenaHealth will use the data in its network to look for solutions, and one of the first data research projects will focus on opioid addiction.

Related: 60% of Patients Have Unused Opioids; 20% Share Them

Another goal for the campaign is to reduce the time physicians spend interacting with the electronic record, so they can interact more with the patient, O'Brien says.

By analyzing real-time data from the AthenaHealth network, it recently became apparent that doctors spent too much time documenting the patient encounter, he says.

In response, the AthenaHealth network automated more of the functions previously performed by the physician and moved some tasks to the front desk. The effort reduced the time spent documenting the patient encounter by 23%, he says.


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Gregory A. Freeman is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.

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