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Lynn Shapiro, Writer | September 16, 2009
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Athenahealth, which sells Internet-based services to physicians, says it will offer a guarantee to entice doctors to install its electronic health records (EHR) systems: if users of Athenahealth systems don't get their stimulus money when the government distributes it in 2011, then Athena won't charge for its services for six months, or until doctors receive their checks, totaling up to $44,000 per eligible physician.

President Obama's economic stimulus package includes $19 billion in incentive payments for hospitals and physicians to convert to a paperless office.

John Hallock, Athena's director of corporate communications tells DOTmed News, "We're putting money into the game; we're liable. And that's good. The U.S. government is asking physicians to change the way they track information in order to save money and we're helping them do that. Why aren't our competitors doing the same thing?"

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Hallock says many of his competitors' software-based systems are difficult to run, "they know it and the government knows it." What's more, physicians in the past have been burned, he says, they've paid large sums of money for software they don't know how to use.

Hallock says Athena's system doesn't require hardware or a setup. Physicians can access patient information simply by using a laptop with an Internet connection.

Doctors pay 1 percent to 2 percent of their annual revenues to use the system, Hallock says.

Athenahealth chief executive, Jonathan Bush, says he hopes the stimulus guarantee will push the company's current 2 percent share of the physician market to 3 percent or more. Physicians can capitalize on the guarantee if they buy a system by January 1, 2011.

Sources: AthenaHealth, Reuters