Whether on the vendor or provider side, the business of healthcare isn’t getting any easier. Across the sector, companies and caregiver organizations are tightening their respective belts while firing up initiatives to increase efficiencies.
At the end of last year’s third quarter, EHR developer athenahealth — which supports a nationwide network of more than 100,000 providers and 100 million patients — reported a 7 percent earnings shortfall. The company simultaneously announced several cost-cutting measures, including a 9 percent workforce reduction, shutdowns of redundant business operations, and sell-offs of real estate assets and a corporate jet.
Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush said the moves reflected the company’s “changing mindset as we evolve the way we do business.”
Additionally, the firm revealed a major follow-up move this month by naming former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt as athenahealth chairman. Immelt previously grew GE’s healthcare technology business from fledgling status to a $20 billion operation during his tenure.
Immelt is viewed as a “door opener” and deal closer among hospital and health system C-suite executives, an area where athenahealth has lagged competitors, according to George Hill, an analyst for RBC Capital Markets.
Referring to Immelt’s appointment, Bush added, “Jeff shares our vision for more connected, efficient and human-centered healthcare … Like us, [he] believes a platform-oriented business and technology strategy is fundamental to executing against that vision.”
More Heavy Hitters Step In
Healthcare’s door swung open again recently when the powerhouse trio of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase revealed plans for a partnership aimed at cutting costs and improving services.
Initially, the enterprise will focus on healthcare system improvements for their collective 1.1 million employees. Nonetheless, the independent new company will strive to leverage technology to simplify the healthcare throughout the country.
Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett said combined resources within the group would be tasked with reining in healthcare’s “ballooning” costs while enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes.
Adam Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting, commented that the new, as-yet-unnamed organization could help physicians and patients make more informed and cost-effective decisions.
Idris Adjerid, management IT professor at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, told CNBC that Amazon, in particular, could play a strong role in bringing artificial intelligence and information-sharing platforms to healthcare. “We find that technology initiatives that facilitated information sharing between disconnected hospitals resulted in significant reductions in healthcare spending,” Adjerid noted.
What remains to be seen, however, is the full scope of the companies’ collaborative effort.
Robert Field, professor of health management and policy at Drexel University, predicted that the alliance would leverage technology to change healthcare delivery across the board. “We’re going to lose the personal touch in healthcare, but perhaps we need to be going in [that] direction,” Field observed. “We don’t have the corner bookshop the way we used to, and we don’t have a corner pharmacy the way we used to. Healthcare is going there one way or another.”
Staying Ahead of the Curve
NetDirector agrees that technological innovation will steer healthcare toward brighter days ahead in terms of fiscal stability and enhanced patient care.
Cloud-based integration and strong record management — hallmarks of NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform — create not only cost savings but also greater efficiencies on the non-revenue-generating side of the patient lifecycle. In doing so, the platform increases the number of patients a provider organization can reasonably sustain.