Most doctors in the U.S. have never heard of Athenahealth, the Watertown, MA-based firm offering Web-based software for managing billing, electronic medical records (EMRs), and other functions in physician practices. But the federal government plans to invest $19 billion to make funds available for doctors to switch from the usual paper-based systems to electronic medical records, giving them a new reason to learn more about Athenahealth (NASDAQ:ATHN) and its offerings. I caught up last week with Jonathan Bush, the outspoken CEO of Athenahealth, to get the lowdown on how the company is seizing this multibillion-dollar opportunity.
Bush, the first cousin of former President George W. Bush, has his doubts about the program. For one thing, the $19 billion isn’t a lot of money for its ambitious purpose, and for another he says that he wants to know what specific standards doctors will be held to in their use of federally subsidized electronic medical records. The $19 billion is part of the broader, $787 billion stimulus package passed in Congress last month. Some of the details such as a murky requirement that doctors will have to show “meaningful use” of electronic records to get the federal dollars have yet to be fully explained. Athenahealth is hoping that the requirement means doctors will have to actually use the electronic records and integrate them into their practices, playing into the company’s strengths in providing software and online services that touch multiple aspects of medical practices.
In any case, doctors are going to get a bigger dose of Athenahealth and its chief executive. The firm revealed during its earnings call last month that it plans to increase its investment in sales and marketing this year. And here’s a link to Bush’s colorful TV appearance two weeks ago on CNBC.
The interview below captures Bush’s thoughts about the $19 billion that the government plans to inject into his industry and its likely impact on Athenahealth. (And if you can’t tell from the interview, Bush hints that he has some obvious philosophical differences with the stimulus package.)
Xconomy: Do you think the government’s spending on EMRs will be effective?
Bush: Obviously, the standards are still up in air … Next Page »
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