"I do know the numbers," he says. "The implementation of a robust electronic health record actually is about patient quality, patient safety, patient care, those elements. But I reject the notion that you have to completely trade off financial common sense in exchange for the patient care aspects of the electronic health record. I just don't buy the business case that dropping a nine-figure investment and strain on the income statement for a few years postimplementation is a necessary part of the equation."
While he acknowledges that athenahealth is still building out its inpatient EHR, Morlock contends that "healthcare is fraught with a lot of groupthink around some of these decisions. The idea that athenahealth couldn't deliver in a new space just doesn't make any sense to me. As a publicly traded company, there is plenty of pressure on athenahealth to make this happen. We will know well ahead of go-live whether there are any problems or not."
The other way Morlock expects to save money is through athenahealth's interoperability components. "You can't just draw a box around your system and say we've got all the medical and health information that we need on a patient, because your patients are being seen potentially in somebody else's primary care clinic, in retail settings, a local nursing home, or pharmacies. You've got to bridge the gaps across all those disparate systems. I used to work at another academic medical center where we bought the more traditional EHR and implemented it, so this is another reason why I'm interested in the athenahealth approach, because I've been down the other road. I don't want to go down that road again."
Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.