Health Management Associates Makes System-Wide Deal With athenahealth

Cloud-based EMR vendor Athenahealth has struck a deal with hospital chain Health Management Associates that its vendor competitors would die for.

HMA has signed an agreement with athena under which the chain’s 1200+ employed physicians — cutting across 15 states and 300 locations — will now use the vendor’s practice management, EMR and patient communication services. HMA’s 10,000-odd independent physicians will also have access to the systems.

In the announcement, HMA and athena took pains to emphasize that the selection process was a fair and thorough one:

Health Management selected athenahealth after a twelve-month review and due diligence process that involved more than 350 clinical experts, including more than 200 physicians. The evaluation process included detailed questionnaires, onsite and virtual demonstrations, site visits, and clinical template shootouts.

Perhaps those details were included to convince observers that the deal didn’t include some kind of payola. I don’t think doctors are going to be too impressed by the IT talk. (If it were me I’d care about only one demonstration — how it worked for me on Day One.)

HMA may not be the country’s largest hospital chain, but it’s still a heavyweight, operating 66 hospitals spanning 10,330 licensed beds. Its hospitals span Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.

Particularly given its scale, this deal intrigues me for a few reasons. It raises what seem to me to be important questions:

* Is HMA expecting its independent physicians to dump whatever EMR they may already have in place and switch it out for athena?  Or adopt its practice management module instead of what they use now?  That seems, uh, a bit unrealistic?

* I don’t know what enterprise EMR system HMA uses (do you, readers?) but whatever it is, I doubt it will plug seamlessly into to the athena cloud.  How do the IT types at HMA plan to connect the whole schlemiel?

* If the independent physicians don’t want to adopt the athena package, what will HMA do? Club them like baby seals?  Or just accept that a large percentage of its docs aren’t connected?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.