Epocrates, the startup whose mobile apps provide drug reference advice to more than half of American health care providers, is being acquired by Athenahealth, the data management platform for doctors–a marriage of two Most Innovative Companies.
Athenahealth founder Jonathan Bush is known for in his quest to leverage information technology to radically disrupt health care, and he often sees commonalities where others see competitors. For examples, Athenahealth sponsors More Disruption Please, a series of conferences, hackathons, webinars and more designed to encourage more innovation around Electronic Medical Records and other health care technologies.
Epocrates, founded by two Stanford students in 1998, has brand recognition among 90% of US doctors and about a million users of its apps across Apple and Android devices. Bush described the Epocrates acquisition as a means of rapidly expanding awareness of Athenahealth’s cloud-based services by getting in front of more doctors, while rapidly expanding the tools available to those doctors at point-of-care. It also gives the company an instant-on mobile application suite.
“Our biggest problem as a company is that 70% of doctors have no idea they can do their billing and records and data management in the cloud,” he said. “Think of Epocrates as the preeminent media channel to doctors in the country–they’re the dominant read only application in health care.”
The idea is that the next time they look up the side effects of Zantac or Xanax, doctors will get a chance to learn what digital billing or automated text messaging could do for their practice, and adoption of Athenahealth’s technology will spread. As tablets start to replace the old clipboard charts, one day those tools could include ever-more sophisticated diagnostics, sensors, integrated health records, and more–one day perhaps a virtual doctor in an app.