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Cloud EHR vendor CEO Jonathan Bush hits health IT hot topics

Jonathan Bush, president, CEO and co-founder of cloud EHR vendor athenahealth Inc., has long been an outspoken advocate for the cloud in health IT; now his company is planning to scale up its EHR to the midsize hospital arena.

It's a significant move that -- along with a similar initiative by ambulatory EHR competitor eClinicalWorks LLC -- could signal a paradigm shift in an EHR universe that has long been wary of the cloud.

All these major institutions will eventually go to the cloud.
Jonathan BushCEO and co-founder, athenahealth

In this video recorded at HIMSS 2016, where athenahealth showcased its EHR co-development plan with University of Toledo Medical Center, athenahealth's first academic medical center customer, Bush talks about what he sees as the cloud's obvious advantages of economies of scale and interoperability.

"I do think the cloud is going to be big," Bush says. "Of course, all these major institutions will eventually go to the cloud."

But don't expect any major disruption in the market just yet, with cloud EHRs suddenly taking over the terrain traditionally ruled by the big enterprise EHR vendors such as Epic Systems Corp. and Cerner Corp.

Bush says athenahealth wants to move gradually up the provider continuum by first learning how to deploy its cloud EHR for an academic medical center and its integrated data network and making sure it works well.

The Watertown, Mass., company -- which previously focused nearly exclusively on physician practices and outpatient clinics -- is also now a force in the small hospital space.

It first entered the hospital market with its January 2015 acquisition of RazorInsights, LLC, which was one of the leaders in supplying EHRs and billing systems for rural, critical access and community hospitals. Later last year, athenahealth signed a deal with Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to adapt its homegrown EHR for a 50-bed hospital in the Boston suburb of Dedham.

Bush also reflects on what many in health IT are starting to call the end of meaningful use, the federal EHR incentive program that even Bush, a critic of government regulation, concedes was successful in spurring the national digitization of health records.

"One of the mandates of meaningful use was interoperability, but yet, at the end of $35 billion, ain't no one that talks to anybody," the sometimes blunt-spoken first cousin of former president George W. Bush says in the video.

Bush also talks optimistically about the rise of what he calls "convenient care" and the consumerization of healthcare with retail giants such as Target and large pharmacy chains increasingly providing healthcare services.

He says big health systems will need to pay attention to the consumerization trend if they are to stay relevant to everyday healthcare needs.

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