CEO Q&A: Jonathan Bush, Athenahealth

Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush talks to Jaimy Lee about raising the startup health tech company's profile and how it can grow its customer base

What has Athena's biggest challenge been over the past year?

Ever since we developed a breakthrough product seven years ago, it has been awareness. The vast majority of physicians don't know we exist, don't know most of their software problems can be handled in a cloud, and don't know what a cloud is.

How does Athenahealth differentiate itself from competitors such as GE Healthcare or Siemens Medical Solutions?

Athenahealth is the nation's only cloud-based business service in healthcare. It's a newsworthy idea that the era of spending millions of dollars in the hospital space for static software doesn't change when the rules change and doesn't change when doctors' fashions change. People become afraid of losing their individuality in the cloud, but the idea of taking that capital back and having these incredibly distracting frustrations around claims, medical records, and files being lost is a huge breakthrough.

What primary audience are you trying to reach?

The ultimate audience is the physician, but one must also focus on available audiences. Media outlets that have been available to us have been the IT magazines, the investment media, and the CNBCs and Fox Newses that are chattering away about our stock. Sometimes, it's not the audience or the story we want, but it's something - it's our name.

In a recent interview, you talked about growing the customer base from about 16,000 to 100,000. What role will communications play in achieving that target?

We're trying to get the world to understand that there is a cloud. Once the medical community understands that, it will be easy to sell them Athena. In order to get to 100,000, we need doctors, hospitals, and medical groups to already know there's a cloud.

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