Athenahealth and EClinicalWorks CEOs Explain Their Differences, Critique Software Subsidies

It was an experiment. Put two rivals in the health IT game—Jonathan Bush, CEO of Watertown, MA-based Athenahealth (NASDAQ:ATHN), and Girish Navani, CEO of Westborough, MA-based eClinicalWorks—on the same stage to talk frankly about the future of their industry. Pam McNamara, president of Cambridge Consultants, showed up to moderate with a wooden gavel, if that’s any indication of the kind of exchange she expected.

So did the experiment, which was our inaugural “Xconomy Xchange,” work? If shedding real light on a key industry without (too much) verbal bloodshed is any measure, then the answer’s a decided yes. Bush and Navani lead companies with profoundly different approaches to enabling the expanded use of electronic health records in the U.S. The CEOs did an admirable job of explaining those differences, with great questions from McNamara and only a little help from her gavel.

From the outset, it was easy to see how Bush and Navani have grown their companies into enterprises with more than $100 million in annual revenue and hundreds of employees in the Bay State. They both showed themselves to be thoughtful leaders—and skillful debaters when the discussion turned to what makes their companies stand out from others.

What follows are some of the highlights from the Xchange, which was hosted in the Boston offices of the law firm WilmerHale. Keep your eyes peeled for Bush’s and Navani’s comments on the U.S. government’s recently heightened role in their industry, as it is about the only issue on which they appeared to come close to seeing eye-to-eye.

From left: Girish Navani, Pam McNamara, and Jonathan Bush.

From left: Girish Navani, Pam McNamara, and Jonathan Bush.

On Getting Paid

Athenahealth makes most of its money by taking a small cut of revenues from doctor’s offices that use its software—rather than charging a fee to use the software or some other billing scheme. EClinicalWorks charges doctors a relatively low monthly subscription fee, set at $250 per doctor, for use of its electronic health records software.

“We are a cloud-based service. We give away the software, and we change it eight times a year,” Bush said. “The reason for that is partly because we can move through the innovation curve faster. As a new entrant, we had to be able to bust through all the different features that the established software companies had. More importantly, you have to have a totally different set of economics.”

For doctors paying $250 per month for its software, Navani said, “it’s something that you’re not going to … Next Page »

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3 responses to “Athenahealth and EClinicalWorks CEOs Explain Their Differences, Critique Software Subsidies”

  1. Great article. With the debate about the risks and benefits of electronic health records heating up, Bush and Navani provide insight during this pivotal time of transformation.

    While $250 is a low subscription fee for doctors, Practice Fusion’s EMR is free. There is no cost for hosting, licensing, training or support, even though the product handles all aspects of a practice’s operations. We have eliminated the main barrier to adoption for physicians – cost.

    Exciting to see innovation among so many vendors in the health IT space.

  2. Richard says:

    I wish I had that price!!! I just started orthopaedic practice and I am paying $600/month plus another $80 for gateway.

  3. Danny says:

    HL7 interfacing?? i got an email from their sales department and I quote copied and paste… “We would not interface with another EMR or
    PM. ”

    So what good is it than??