Creating a disrupter ecosystem: How Athenahealth did it

jonathanbush2Athenahealth, a publicly-traded company based near Boston, has been pretty disruptive in its own right. It helps more than 40,000 medical providers around the U.S. ditch paperwork and manage their practices digitally, with cloud-based software and services that do everything from maintain patient records, communicate with patients electronically, and most importantly, get paid for their work by insurers. In 2012, its revenues were $422 million.

But CEO Jonathan Bush likes to shake things up, and so in 2011 he hatched a program called “More Disruption Please.” Its essence can be captured in a question: How could Athenahealth become more valuable to its customers by leveraging the efforts of outside players? MDP is open to entrepreneurs and other established healthcare IT companies, and already, Bush says, 800 companies and more than 1500 individuals (such as solo entrepreneurs or consultants) have signed up to be part of the community he is creating.

“Half the docs in the country are looking at our screen every day,” he says. “The idea is that others can sell through to our client base through what you might think of as an app store. We’re the backbone.” New apps to help doctors operate more efficiently or deliver better care would increase their loyalty to Athenahealth, and the apps’ developers might introduce Athenahealth to new customers.

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