Cutting through the healthcare news noise at athenaInsight

Athenahealth's massive data trove fuels insight and content on new website

Image via athenaInsight website
Image via athenaInsight website

WATERTOWN, MA: Health tech company athenahealth has learned a thing or two after running its own full-blown daily news website. The number one thing editorial director John Fox has learned: don’t add to the noise.

"You have to have something unique and meaningful to say," Fox said. "A lot of people are writing the same old articles about the Affordable Care Act or the patient as a consumer. Every story we do we ask, ‘Are we adding something unique and valuable to the conversation?’ If the answer is no, we just don't do it, otherwise we’re just adding to the noise."

Since the launch of the news website athenaInsight six months ago, the team of six behind the site have been tapping into the mountains of data generated from its business in electronic health records, revenue cycle management, and patient engagement services for health providers. Athenahealth has access to 80,000 providers and 80 million patient records across the U.S.

With a newsy topic like the opioid epidemic, the athenaInsight team went to its data to show opioid prescribing trends, like the age, gender, and racial breakdown of who gets prescribed opioids or a state-by-state breakdown of opioid regulations.

"There’s a lot of discussion about what's the right thing to do to get this under control," Fox said. "So we’re turning to our data to see how prescribing trends have changed or writing three things you can learn about how to reduce opioid prescribing. We’re trying to be part of the solution by providing actionable information to our readers."

Alongside data-based articles, athenaInsight has doctors contribute opinion pieces for top-of-mind issues like EpiPen pricing or the 21st Century Cures Act. Fox is already anticipating covering the change in the healthcare landscape with the reform or repeal of the ACA.

"Even for health system leaders it's confusing and it’s only going to be more confusing as the ACA potentially gets unraveled," Fox said. "[Health system leaders] are in a city of information, but there’s not a lot of clarity. What we’re trying to do is cut through that noise and provide actionable information, not information simply for its own sake."

Much of the first few months have been testing the waters. The athenaInsight team has had to find the audience, which turned out to be hospital and health system leaders and doctors. Fox said they test content and measure engagement to find what these readers want and then provide more similar content.

AthenaInsight now has about 35,000 monthly unique visitors and 1,600 weekly newsletter subscribers. Fox said he’s creating "an ecosystem of content" with athenaInsight as the hub. The team is gathering its following on social media and incorporating the data into athenahealth events.

"We realized there was greater opportunity with all the data," Fox said. "We had been doing some content off that data for a couple years. It’s a really unique data source; there is so much potential information to be harvested off the network."

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