athenahealth Deal Shows Promise and Potential of Connected Health

athenahealth, acquisition, connected health, cloud-based healthcare

Connected health is having a lively year in the wake of a pandemic that exposed weaknesses in several areas, including how patient data is shared and how payments are handled. 

The latest deal confirming the trend came in the announcement on Monday (Nov. 22) that athenahealth is being jointly acquired by affiliates of private equity firms Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman for $17 billion.  

A statement noted that the athenaOne cloud platform “addresses the critical aspects of a physician’s practice — with modules spanning patient engagement, revenue cycle, telehealth, payments, population health and value-based care management” in a cloud-based model. 

It’s the latest and largest deal for a cloud-based practice management firm focused on how platform dynamics can create better information flow for connected economy health solutions. 

In a recent interview with industry news site Managed Healthcare Executive, athenahealth’s VP of platform services Michael Palantoni said, “There’s a lot of challenges to innovate in healthcare. We recognize an opportunity for athena to provide these basic utilities, these core data assets for others to use and accelerate their business.” 

Like others in the space, the company is pursuing greater portability of patients’ Electronic Health Records (EHR) as well as platform modules that assist with payments.

Interoperability and data exchange is driving patient/consumer expectations more than ever.  

The PYMNTS study Connected Healthcare: What Consumers Want From Their Healthcare Customer Experiences, a Rectangle Health collaboration, found that “most patients want to use at least one digital method to manage their healthcare services or interactions with their providers,” such as medical histories digitally, filling out medical forms digitally, communicating with healthcare providers securely and receiving digital payment notifications. 

Get the study: Connected Healthcare: What Consumers Want From Their Healthcare Customer Experiences

Innovation Taking Many Forms 

Efforts by health tech firms to innovate after the global health crisis are increasing, with some pushing deeper into resolving payments pains while other focus on new modes of care delivery. 

On the technology front, medical imaging is getting a connected economy makeover using ultrasounds guided by artificial intelligence (AI), enabling more of these needed scans.  

For example, health tech firm Caption Heath is behind an ambitious AI-guided echocardiogram push, about which CEO Steve Cashman told PYMNTS, “Think of what happened to analog cameras, to digital cameras, and how that just reinvented imagery [and] media. Everything that we do is now kind of connected via image on [social media]. You’re going to see ultrasound really become prolific throughout healthcare.” 

Others in the space are putting their efforts on what many agree is one of the most painful experiences in healthcare: paying for care, and getting paid for services performed.  

In a recent PYMNTS interview, CareCredit CEO Alberto (Beto) Casellas said, “There’s an opportunity for physicians and providers to include these conversations [about cost] in conjunction with care management plans. These conversations are not only a way to build patient loyalty but also improve the outcomes that patients are looking for by delivering much stronger revenue cycle management and … less risk to the provider.”

Patients/consumers want and need this information, with recent PYMNTS research finding that 47% of patients with out-of-pocket costs don’t know if their healthcare providers offer affordable payment alternatives. Of the 31% who are aware that a healthcare provider offers alternative payment options, more than 50% used them. 

Get the study: The Payment Cure: How Improving Billing Experiences Impacts Patient Loyalty