Jonathan Bush makes a non-political point

Summary:If Bush can execute and deliver a solid, reliable EHR using SaaS, his company will earn whatever stimulus its customers get, and more besides.

When your last name is Bush, and you're related to those Bushes, everything you say will appear political. For better or worse it's like being a Kennedy.

But Jonathan Bush, CEO of AthenaHealth, is not a politician. He is the co-founder, along with Todd Park (now CTO of the Department of Health and Human Services) of AthenaHealth, a SaaS company that made its bones in showing doctors the money they earned and is now investing heavily in the Electronic Health Record (EHR) space.

Bush recently threw a bit of business FUD at rivals like Cerner, GE and McKesson, claiming the HITECH stimulus favors such "big iron" programs over SaaS offerings like those of AthenaHealth, AllScripts and PracticeFusion.

What got the attention of The New York Times was his statement comparing the program to "Cash for Clunkers." That's because there is enough money available in stimulus to make a centralized system appear affordable. The writer then made the connection to Mr. Bush's relatives and it was off to the races.

In fact, as I noted last year, AthenaHealth is a bipartisan operation. Had John McCain won in 2008, perhaps Bush could be in his Administration. As it is his co-founder is.

Like all EHR vendors AthenaHealth is pivoting quickly to meet the demands of "meaningful use," doing deals to reduce the financial demands of its billings offering in order to deliver on a "stimulus guarantee program."

The program is possible because AthenaHealth is delivering EHR as a service. SaaS is updated, and upgraded, centrally rather than at the customer's location. Its use can be monitored, its case proven by logs.

Bush's problem is that he's having to invest a bit ahead of revenue in order to meet meaningful use requirements in his EHR SaaS operation, and that is impacting results in the short term.

Once the software is ready, marketing becomes the success key, and attention to your stand is the first step in marketing success.

The "Cash for Clunkers" crack got a lot of attention, but it's a straw man argument. If Bush can execute and deliver a solid, reliable EHR using SaaS, his company will earn whatever stimulus its customers get, and more besides.

In this case his crack was a salesman's trick, not a politician's.

Topics: Enterprise Software


Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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