Where athenahealth will invest in growth for 2020 and beyond: Q&A with CEO Bob Segert

Athenahealth has big plans in 2020 to grow the company and innovate in product development, particularly around improving the patient and clinician experience.

Here, athenahealth Chairman and CEO Bob Segert discusses the company's strategy and what to expect in the future.

Question: What is athenahealth's top one or two areas of focus for 2020?

Bob Segert: Last year, our focus was on bringing athenahealth and Virence Health together and setting a new strategy and vision for the business, which is to create a thriving ecosystem that delivers accessible, high-quality, and sustainable healthcare for all.

To deliver on that in 2020, we're getting to back to work, with our product roadmap focused on both the provider and patient experience. We'll be releasing a new mobile experience, and improvements to our documentation capabilities and patient portal. We'll also be investing in our research function, which will allow us more capacity to analyze the data on our network to surface insights that make a difference. An example of the network insights in action: we were recently able to deploy screening tools and diagnostic order sets to all our athenaOne customers overnight, to help in their efforts to identify and diagnose patients at risk for covid-19 coronavirus. We are also monitoring the usage of those tools for any emerging patterns that we might be able to see on the network.

Q: The outpatient and ambulatory markets have traditionally been key to athenahealth's success. Why is it so important and will it continue to drive your strategy in the future?

BS: The outpatient and ambulatory markets are where most patients enter the healthcare delivery system, and if we want to create a sustainable healthcare ecosystem, it all starts there — the vast majority of healthcare spend comes at the direction of a physician. We believe that to have a positive influence on the industry overall, we will do so by supporting those caregivers who oversee that 'front door' and we are making significant investments to support them and their staff in the ambulatory or outpatient setting. In addition to our investments in user experience improvements, we will continue to augment our technology solutions — medical record, revenue cycle, patient engagement, and care coordination offerings — with services designed to reduce the manual labor associated with running a practice. For example, we have started using machine learning algorithms to better predict when customers can expect payments from payers, so that there is less overall follow-up work required.

Q: How is the acquisition and integration of Virence Health going? What can we expect to see as a result of the acquisition moving forward?

BS: We're very pleased — we had two strong employee and customer cultures come together, and the result is a motivated, passionate team who are obsessed with driving customer satisfaction and results. The company currently has approximately 5,300 employees and is hiring for growth across all our locations. We are truly working as one company — we have a single vision, a single set of core values and behaviors, and a clearly articulated strategy to move each product line forward and expand synergies between them.

Q: Where do you see the best opportunities for athenahealth to win in the long term — five to 10 years from now?

BS: We are focused on opportunities that support a thriving ecosystem and have allocated almost a billion dollars for R&D over the next four to five years. We are committed to enhancing our products and driving new growth areas. We see several areas of opportunities, including value-based care, integrating more data sources into the EHR through partnerships with payers, and expanding the ecosystem to include other care settings as they become more and more critical to the system. We will continue to build on our industry-leading connectivity by increasing the number of Marketplace partners and expanding our use of open APIs, with 700 currently available, to connect a fragmented ecosystem.

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