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Leading vendor of cloud-based EHR and other services for medical practices, Athenahealth (ATHN - Analyst Report) recently revealed that MedExpress Urgent Care, a major provider of urgent care, will implement its cloud-based billing offerings to improve delivery of care. MedExpress chose Athenahealth’s practice management offering, athenaCollector and patient communication offering, athenaCommunicator.

It was recently estimated by the Urgent Care Association of America that over 100 million people enter an urgent care facility every year. MedExpress is the leader in providing quality and economical care for individuals requiring treatment for injury or episodic illness. MedExpress helps tackle the issues of shortage of primary care doctors and strained emergency departments.   

Athenahealth’s web-based deployment provides a low-cost scalable service while its flexible rules engine leads to higher efficiency in claims settlement. The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based approach allows for a more flexible delivery mechanism that helps Athenahealth to win deals. The company has traditionally enjoyed high customer satisfaction rates, which facilitates a larger number of referrals.

Athenahealth’s unique business model makes it a strong provider of RCM services (athenaCollector) to small physician practices. Its EHR product (athenaClinicals) is a key player in ambulatory settings.  We believe that sales of athenaClinicals are likely to remain robust, given the opportunity for physicians to earn incentive payments under the federal stimulus. In addition, the company will harness its newer products, namely athenaCommunicator and athenaCoordinator.

The company should benefit from its extensive athenaCollector client base, as only a minority of its subscriber base also utilizes athenaClinicals. Cross selling represents a real growth opportunity in the near term. In this regard, Athenahealth has made rapid strides in capturing the EHR business of physician practices. However, this segment is shrinking as hospitals increasingly absorb physician practices.

Athenahealth has geared itself for the enterprise segment through its strategic alliance with Microsoft (MSFT - Analyst Report) and the acquisition of Proxsys, both in 2011. The company has recently signed on, and executed several enterprise-sized deals, which provide it with a credible and reference-able client base.

Though the federal stimulus will gradually wind down, the replacement market is growing. Competition is fierce and larger competitors may benefit from the incumbency factor. Industry stalwarts such as Cerner (CERN - Analyst Report) offer long-standing seamless products integrating inpatient and ambulatory-care systems. Quality Systems (QSII - Analyst Report) and Allscripts Healthcare Solutions (MDRX - Analyst Report) are two other well-known competitors in a crowded field.

We are currently Neutral on the stock. The stock currently retains a Zacks #4 Rank, which translates into a short-term Sell recommendation.

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