Athenahealth's Bush sounds off on ARRA

"Mr. Bush is an outlier in the generally buttoned-down world of the health industry," Wall Street Journal columnist Joseph Rago writes about Athenahealth Chairman and CEO Jonathan Bush. (Having interviewed Bush on multiple occasions, your FierceEMR editor knows this is the truth.) He's a disruptive force in an industry badly in need of one.

Rago's lengthy column spends a lot of time talking about Bush's opposition to "ObamaCare"--as a first cousin of former President George W. Bush, he's a lifelong Republican, after all--and other intricacies of the insurance reform under consideration that really has little to do with health IT. But the interview also gets into a delicious irony: While Athenahealth stands to benefit greatly from the federal EMR subsidy plan, Bush is no fan of the health IT section of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

(Another bit of irony, or perhaps evidence of bipartisanship on Bush's part, is that the Obama administration picked Athenahealth co-founder Todd Park, a longtime friend of Bush, to be the first-ever chief technology officer of HHS.)

"It is kind of too bad that all these software companies that we're really close to putting out of business, these terrible legacy companies, with code that was written in the '70s, are going to get life support. That's why I call it the Sunny von Bülow bill. What it is, basically, is a federally sponsored sale on old-fashioned software," Bush says, with his distinct mix of humor, bile and tight grasp of history.

"You get this fixed chunk of money for a few years, you get to pay off your EMR, like its a thing," Bush adds. But he believes an EMR is not a "thing" like a building or a road. "And this isn't that. This is a market: its a set of agreements, it's a language. What's needed is a way of exchanging value and making choices, that's ethical-and, you know, nobody, nobody, not nobody, has said a word about that," says Bush.

For more:
- read Rago's interview with Bush in the Wall Street Journal