Did athenahealth want to buy iTriage?

By Brian Dolan
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itriagehealthvault"First off, hats off to Aetna, they clearly are a fast-moving player, because they beat me to the punch," athenahealth's VP of corporate development Karl Zachar said during his brief time on-stage at the Health 2.0 Spring Fling in Boston this week. Zachar said that iTriage is a "very disruptive innovative" startup that "was looking to create value" by integrating with large hospital systems and successfully connecting the patient symptom navigator to providers.

Zachar noted that he first met iTriage's CEO Dr. Peter Hudson at athena's "More Disruption Please" conference, which the company launched last year in Belfast, Maine. Shortly after the conference, Zachar said, the news about iTriage's acquisition be Aetna emerged.

"I was at the conference, which they put together to build an ecosystem of partners," Hudson told MobiHealthNews on a call once the Health 2.0 Spring Fling's first day concluded. "We are still very interested in ways to work together [with athenahealth], and there probably is more potential now that we are part of Aetna than back when we were an independent." Hudson would not confirm any relationship with athenahealth, however, since nothing official has been announced between his parent company, Aetna and athenahealth, which are both public companies.

Hudson Skyped into his brief session at Health 2.0 because he said he and the iTriage team were hard at work on new features for the app. Hudson loomed over the stage from a big screen that showed him in his office with a giant smartphone simulator (simulating the iTriage app, of course) on a computer screen behind him in his office.

"We are actually working hard developing new features for iTriage," Hudson said. "We are working to put it on a giant smartphone so that giant people can use iTriage," he joked. "No, seriously, we are working hard and collaborating with both our current partners and all of our physician clients as well as Aetna and its emerging business [group]."

Health 2.0's Matthew Holt pushed Hudson to give the audience a preview of those future iTriage features.

"The only preview I can give you is [that] we are going to get more and more interactive, personalized and have broader enterprise implementations," Hudson said.

"I think I heard something through the haze there [about] live video -- that's my guess," Holt said, as Hudson smiled refusing to comment.

Real-time video consults through the iTriage app? That would be quite an upgrade.

"At Aetna we are able to do things we would have never imagined doing [before]," Hudson said. "Just last week we announced that we are part of a Banner health system ACO implementation across 25 hospitals in Arizona, Colorado and different areas of the country. Those types of implementations are the kind of things we would never be able to do on our own."

Aetna's VP of consumer marketing and product Meg McCabe also participated in the quickfire interviews at the event this week. Here's how McCabe laid out the health plan's roadmap for the next three years:

"We hope to continue the healthcare system and make it easier for consumers and providers," she said. "On the consumer side we are going to continue to help people find the right care, make decisions about where to go, work across payers, and across different provider types. On the provider side of the equation, we are going to spend more time actually in the flow and getting into the process of care and helping providers connect to consumers and patients in ways that they never have before."

"We are not just going to be in the insurance realm," McCabe said. "We are going to be a part of that patient-provider journey in ways others might not expect."

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