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athenahealth Review

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
  • athenaHealth offers the most extensive and useful reporting module we reviewed, benchmarking other practices on its network and offering insights to clients based on that data.
  • athenaHealth's alternative pricing model closely resembles medical billing services, charging a percentage of monthly practice collections rather than a monthly subscription fee.
  • The software has a slight learning curve and likely requires some training to effectively use the system and all its tools.
  • This review is for healthcare organizations considering implementing athenaHealth's medical software.

After conducting our research and analysis of EMR/PMS systems, we recommend athenahealth as the best EMR/PMS system for reporting. athenaHealth is our best pick because not only does it include hundreds of reports, it also leverages athenaNet, a nationwide network of more than 150,000 healthcare providers, to help practices see how they measure up to others like them. athenaHealth also offers consultative services based on this benchmark reporting, helping coach practices to improve over time.

athenahealth

athenahealth

The Best Medical Practice Management Software of 2020

The Verdict

athenaHealth offers the best reporting and billing module of any practice management software we evaluated. By monitoring its network of 150,000 organizations, you can compare your performance with similar practices nationwide.

We chose athenahealth from a pool of dozens of EMR/PMS systems. To learn about our full methodology and for a more comprehensive list of EMR/PMS solutions, see Business News Daily's best picks.

 

Editor's note: Are you looking for medical practice management software that can help your office run more efficiently? Fill out the form below for more information from our vendor partners.

 

 

Pricing

Athenahealth's pricing model is based on a percentage of monthly collections rather than a monthly per-provider model, like most of the other vendors we reviewed. Access to athenahealth's practice management software, EMR system and medical billing services generally costs about 7% to 8% of medical practice collections. However, that percentage can vary based on your average claim volume, claim value and the complexity of your billing service requirements.

The percentage price includes access to athenaOne, the company's full suite of healthcare IT products, revenue cycle management services, and useful tools like document management software and patient engagement features. There are no long-term contractual obligations for athenaOne. athenahealth does not conduct fully outsourced revenue cycle management through its billing services but requires medical practices to have an in-house biller who works alongside athenahealth's billing staff.

Key Takeaway: athenaHealth charges a percentage of monthly practice collections, typically ranging from 7% to 8% each month.

Ease of Use

Athenahealth's EMR/PMS platform is not the most intuitive, nor the most complicated we reviewed. New users to the system shouldn't experience major obstacles to learning the software, especially with guided training. However, it's not so user-friendly that a new user could simply click around to find everything they wanted to use, like other systems we reviewed.

Much of athenahealth is built around a "patient-centric" ethos, which can sometimes be confusing depending on the task a user is trying to complete. This requires users to search for a patient first, review their detailed information, and then choose to move through to various screens like registration, clinical chart or appointment-scheduling tools. As a result, we found there is a frequent need to return to the home screen each time a task is complete just to navigate to the next part of the system a user might need, rather than navigating seamlessly from tool to tool. This type of "start at the beginning again" rhythm sometimes felt interruptive.

Some processes required multiple clicks, where only one or two should suffice. For example, appointment scheduling is a bit inefficient, requiring staff to click through several fields and check boxes in a series of windows. However, athenahealth is planning to release a new calendar view that resembles Microsoft Outlook and features drag-and-drop functionality in the near future.

Overall, expect a small learning curve with athenahealth, and for a few core processes to take several steps. There are no navigation-breaking bugs or issues that we experienced in our review, and after training and acclimating to the system, some users might find they prefer athenahealth's processes. However, in our review, we found several more streamlined user interfaces that felt more intuitive.

Key takeaway: athenaHealth's user interface is navigable but not intuitive, and likely will require some training to make the most effective use of the platform.

EMR Features

Despite the slight learning curve, athenahealth offers unique features for both clinical and office staff. Here are the core features of athenaClinicals' EMR solution:

Calendar

Front-office staff and clinical providers can view the calendar in a daily, weekly, or monthly format. You can also use the quick reference tabs to see how many scheduled patients are currently in the office, how many encounters have already occurred, outstanding appointment requests by unscheduled patients and any lab or imaging orders that are available for review. In the scheduling tool, a list of all patients, the time and type of their appointment, and current status of their visit are listed, along with their name, age, and profile picture. These tiles can be clicked on to view more detailed patient information. athenaClinicals also maintains a portal that allows patients to access the EHR remotely to obtain their lab results, request and schedule appointments, request prescription refills, and make payments online. athenaClinical's patient portal also allows patients to communicate securely with their providers. The athenahealth team can work with your practice to boost patient enrollment and use of the portal systems. The patient portal can be used via desktop or any iOS enable mobile device.

Intake

During patient intake, providers can review a checklist on the left side of the screen, which includes information like family history, medical history, allergies, medications and more. Patients can also be placed into a specific exam room here.

A vitals tab along the top of the screen allows midlevel providers to record vitals (or automatically import vitals from a connected medical device). Providers can also review a 13-month medication history through athena's integration with SureScripts.

During intake, a MIPS/MACRA quality measures tool runs in the background, making sure clinical staff are informed about what information or procedures are required to qualify for Meaningful Use standards.

Clinical Notes

During an exam, nurses and doctors operate within the patient's chart. Here, providers can view more detailed information about individual patients, including allergies, medications, problems and diagnoses. Patient vitals captured on intake appear on the right side of the screen, along with a history of their last visit and any recent activity, such as prescriptions filled.

In the charting tool, it is easy to view different types of patient information. Providers can cycle through tabs that display each area of information, this includes any previous notes the doctor might have made. The charting tool allows providers to use templates, free text, or voice to record information about the encounter. Templates are customizable and can be tethered to different appointment types. For example, providers might use one custom template for a consultation and another for a follow-up. Providers can customize templates for patients with recurring visits for specific conditions.

By clicking into the medications tab, you can review a patient's active medications, as well as review their medication history. You can use athenahealth's insurance eligibility check to see which prescriptions have been refilled recently. You can also order new prescriptions and check to see if they could negatively interact with existing medications or patient allergies. Similarly, under the Labs tab, you can review any recent lab results a patient might have received or order new lab tests for them directly within the system. One strong feature athenahealth offers is that patient chart layouts are largely customizable, allowing you to modify the view as if each text box of information under each tab were individual widgets. This customization allows you to adapt athenaClinicals to your workflow, even if other users at your practice use the system differently.

Key takeaway: athenaHealth's EMR system, athenaClinicals, offers customizable templates and notes, which can be useful for providers to tailor the system to suit their preferences.

Medical Practice Management Features

Athenahealth offers all the major features we looked for in practice management software, plus access to a vast network that helps it consistently update its recommendations to clients. The company particularly shines when it comes to reporting and managing the business end of medical practice operations. These are some of the key features:

AthenaNet

Access to athenaNet, the company's network of more than 150,000 healthcare providers and 100 million patients, is a primary benefit of partnering with athenahealth. The company leverages this network to constantly update its billing engine of more than 40 million rules to identify common denials and changes in payer policies, and also to provide advice to medical practices on how to boost their performance. The company monitors top performers on the network to help struggling medical practices replicate their models when key performance indicators drop off, which is a helpful feature for new or small practices.

Reporting

Athenahealth maintains a robust reporting module. Reports can be viewed on a weekly or monthly basis and customized in virtually any way. The amount of data that can be filtered is almost overwhelming (in a good way), a major positive for practices that want to improve by leveraging data-driven insights.

The workflow dashboard for the reporting tool features dozens of key metrics of your medical practice's performance. These include information about collections by payer, days in accounts receivable and common reasons for the denial. Quarterly, an athenahealth customer success manager schedules a meeting with you to review these reports and find opportunities to improve your key metrics. The dashboard also displays your practice's performance against the athenaNet average, so you can regularly see how your practice compares with similar practices that use athenahealth.

Athenahealth also monitors front-office information, such as canceled appointments and no-shows. You can use this information to improve the way you send appointment reminders and set scheduling policies. It also tracks the most common codes you send to payers and the collections you bring in from them, helping you identify your most lucrative revenue streams. Anytime you fall below athenaNet's benchmarks in any of these areas, a customer success manager offers to arrange a meeting to address the issue.

Appointment Scheduling

Athenahealth's scheduling tool has a central dashboard that provides an overview of scheduled appointments alongside patient and billing information. The calendar view makes it easy to set new appointments and register new patients on the spot. To set a new appointment, you select a patient from the list of registered patients and set the desired date and time. The calendar displays scheduled appointments by provider or location. Once an appointment is scheduled, recurring reminders can be sent directly to the patient by text, email or phone. Athenahealth offers A/B testing so your medical practice can determine which method of reminder is most effective for your patients.

When a patient arrives for their appointment, they can be checked in through the scheduling tool. This involves the patient filling out or updating missing information and completing any intake forms associated with their appointment type. This process can be expedited with athenaCapture, which takes a snapshot of documentation such as a driver's license or insurance card. The information on these documents can be pulled directly from the card and imported into the system automatically. You can set custom fields in the scheduler and flag them as mandatory. The appointment cannot move forward until mandatory fields are filled out.

Once a patient is checked in, their insurance information will appear on the screen, along with their expected copay and deductible. Front-office staff can capture any copayments or outstanding balances directly at the point of care, improving patient collections and minimizing the days in accounts receivable. Athenahealth can also manage payment plans for patients who can't pay on the spot, allowing them to set up an auto-debit schedule with the approval of your medical practice.

Additionally, athenahealth monitors the efficiency of your registration and scheduling process, identifying bottlenecks and slowdowns. If there are inefficiencies in the process, athenahealth not only alerts you to their presence but provides recommendations for optimizing the process.

Billing

Athenahealth's billing tools are highly effective, relying largely on athenaNet to help its clients optimize their financial performance. When you sign up for revenue cycle management and medical billing services, though, you are still required to keep an in-house medical biller. This staff member is specifically responsible for the creation of E&M codes and charge posting. At this point, athenahealth takes over, pulling patient insurance information to review ICD-10 and CPT codes, and scrubbing claims before submission. Athenahealth scrubs claims within eight seconds of receipt and promises most claims will be paid in two or three business days.

For every percentage point below 95% of unposted claims not worked within three days, athenahealth will reimburse your medical practice 2% of the value. Similarly, if the company does not manage 95% of denials within 10 business days of a rejection notice, it refunds you the value of those claims.

Athenahealth staff also monitors your contractual agreements with payers to ensure you are being paid what you are owed. Once per quarter, athenahealth will send payers a bill for the balance of underpaid claims. Moreover, any claims that are paid out at $0 will be pursued daily by athenahealth's billing staff.

Patient Portal

The patient portal in athenahealth's practice management software is where patients can request appointments or prescription refills and send secure, HIPAA-compliant messages. It also allows patients to update their demographics, preferred pharmacy, current medications and allergies information. Staff can use the patient portal to request payment on outstanding balances and send appointment reminders. Any updates a patient makes to their information via the portal will be pushed through to the EMR for review by clinical staff.

Through the patient portal, medical practices can run outreach campaigns to specific sub-sets of patients. For example, patients with an upcoming annual physical can receive customized messages from the practice through the portal.

Patient portals can be branded with the practice's logo and color scheme, making it feel more like the client's website than athenahealth's.

Key takeaway: The standout feature of athenaHealth's extensive medical practice management software is the athenaNet reporting module, which offers benchmark targets based on data collected from 150,000+ providers in its network.

Implementation and Training

For new practices, implementation should only take about a month, which is one of the quickest implementation processes we found in our research. For existing practices with data migration needs, it is generally a longer process. During the implementation process, your practice is paired with a dedicated account manager who acts as your liaison with the company. Athenahealth will configure the system to suit your workflows, establish any custom templates on both the clinical and administrative side, and build any desired integrations.

The company also provides training in the form of one-on-one calls, conference calls, and self-guided materials like videos and literature. The dedicated account manager remains associated with your practice even after implementation. This person serves as your direct line to technical support, and you have access to a general customer service number.

When implementing athenahealth, you can also benefit from myriad integrations with other systems and applications that have been built since athenahealth was founded. Moreover, athenahealth will build out any desired integrations on behalf of its clients, so even if the connection you want does not already exist, it could with a simple request.

Key takeaway: athenaHealth offers implementation services that take about one month to complete. These services include a dedicated account manager and training.

Editor's note: Are you looking for medical practice management software that can help your office run more efficiently? Fill out the form below for more information from our vendor partners.

 

Limitations

The primary limitation we encountered with athenahealth is the company's requirement that you keep a medical biller on staff. For small practices looking to outsource their medical billing entirely, this is not an option. While athenahealth can handle a significant portion of your billing operation, as well as provide guidance to make in-house coders and billers more efficient, it does not offer a true revenue cycle management outsourcing plan, in which all coding and claim generation would be handled by a third party.

Instead, your in-house medical biller must internally code claims before athenahealth steps in to handle submission and denial issues. However, at this point, athenahealth guarantees that your claims will be handled quickly or you will be reimbursed. Still, if you're looking for a full medical billing partner so you can focus on front-office and clinical operations without worrying about claims, be aware that athenahealth only manages part of the process.

Image Credit: Dragon Images/Getty Images
athenahealth

athenahealth

The Best Medical Practice Management Software of 2020

The Verdict

athenaHealth offers the best reporting and billing module of any practice management software we evaluated. By monitoring its network of 150,000 organizations, you can compare your performance with similar practices nationwide.

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko,
Business News Daily Writer
See Adam Uzialko's Profile
Freelance editor at business.com. Responsible for managing freelance budget, editing freelance and contributor content, and drafting original articles. Also creates product and service reviews to assist business.com readers in buying decisions for their businesses. VP and co-founder of CannaContent, a digital marketing company dedicated to the cannabis, hemp, and CBD industries. Focused specifically on the content marketing arm of the company, creating blogs, press releases, and website copy for clients spanning the entire supply chain. Avid fan and indispensable ally of the feline species. Music lover, middling guitarist, and unprompted vocalist. Miniature painter who loves sci-fi and fantasy. Armchair political philosopher with a tendency to read old books written by men with unusually large beards. Ask me about all things writing!