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On the Call with Todd Rothenhaus, Chief Medical Officer, athenahealth

Todd Rothenhaus, Chief Medical Officer, athenahealth

When we spoke with Todd Rothenhaus, Chief Medical Officer, athenahealth, he generously offered his perspective on the most significant impacts and iterations that have occurred in healthcare for the past few decades. His concise and vivid insights also provided an interesting view on athenahealth’s planned methods of operation heading into the future.

Some of the topics that he outlined included:

  • the metastory of athenahealth:
  • the mystique of population health;
  • the government’s lack of completeness of its regulations;
  • the need for strong teams;
  • some areas of healthcare that should get more attention in 2016.

(Editor’s note: To hear audio excerpts of this interview, click on the media player buttons that run throughout this article.)

I. Background

Rothenhaus began his career in healthcare as an engineer who later went to medical school.


The second portion of his career was as a physician who experienced, and witnessed, what he calls “a gradual disenfranchisement of the guild of medicine.”


II. athenahealth

Rothenhaus offers the metastory of athenahealth and his view of the state of the healthcare industry.


III. Population health

The mystique, or as Rothenhaus says, “bullshit,” that surrounds population health efforts should not be accepted blindly.


IV. Government

Rothenhaus suggests that the government’s lack of completeness of regulation has bred an environment that is “just too complicated.” On top of this complexity, the government can change the schedule of major of events, such as ICD-10, in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. Such schedule changes, according to Rothenhaus, yield a great deal of stress and anxiety that is not necessary and breeds inefficiency.  


Due to the power and scope of government regulation, Rothenhaus claims, most healthcare organizations require a team is required to ensure organizations do not lose revenue.


V. Emerging issues

Rothenhaus feels our industry has become “a broken world of care coordination.”


Rothenhaus offers to introduce us to Edmund Billings of RazorInsights to discuss the special issues facing rural healthcare settings.


After discussing the importance of incorporating e-commerce best practices within healthcare in order to better engage patients, Rothenhaus questions the validity of popular commercial wearables backed by what he sees as the “west-coast-quantified-self movement.”