Last week Microsoft announced it is entering into a partnership with Athena to make their systems more compatible. According to a spokesperson from Athena, the partnership will “enable health systems to see inpatient and ambulatory information in a single view.” The move was predicated on two hospital clients building bridges between Amalga and AthenaClinicals to share patient information.
What does this mean for ambulatory care electronic health record (EHR) adopters? Not much for now, but it could pave the way to a much bigger collaboration between the two industry giants. Instead of acquiring EHR vendors as we discussed in April, Microsoft could be dipping its toe in the water by partnering instead. Partnering requires much less risk and is often the first step towards a larger move such as an acquisition.
From Athena’s standpoint, the partnership is a great opportunity to work its way into other organizations using Amalga. It’s a no-brainer and a win-win. For Microsoft though, the choice of Athena as a partner is surprising for a few reasons:
- We would still expect any Microsoft partner to possess the characteristics that we outlined in April of a lucrative acquisition target: large market share, scalable products, and .Net architecture.
- While Athena is a big brand and its system is scalable, it doesn’t have nearly the user base of bigger firms such as Allscripts or eClinicalWorks.
- The SaaS model provides zero synergy with SQL Server and Windows Server sales.
However, Athena’s commitment to cloud computing could prove to be attractive as Microsoft has been criticized for being late to the cloud party. Time will tell what benefits this partnership brings to both firms. For Athena, it will likely result in more brand awareness and exposure to bigger software deals. For Microsoft, it seems likely that they will begin to partner with other EHR vendors. We would have expected Microsoft to choose a bigger fish to work with from the beginning though.
What do you think? Is this the first step towards an acquisition? Feel free to leave comments below.