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Healthy Profits

By streamlining billing woes, these enterpreneurs are helping physicians focus on patients.

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Description: Internet-based revenue-cycle management provider for the health-care industry

Founders: Jonathan S. Bush, 36, & Todd Park, 32

Location: Waltham, Massachusetts

Projected 2005 Sales: $38 million

Wisdom and War: Athena is the goddess of wisdom and prudent warfare. Athenahealth brings both qualities to its internet-based billing and revenue-cycle software solutions for medical providers. Wisdom is a quality the founders have picked up over the varied life cycles of the company. According to Jonathan S. Bush, "The prudent warfare is using technology to get large, impersonal insurance companies to pay their claims properly."

A Business Is Born: In 1997, Athenahealth as it is today was just a gleam in the founders' eyes. Originally, Bush and Todd Park bought an OB-GYN clinic in San Diego county that they refer to as "the baby company." They both had backgrounds in health care and had met while working at strategy and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. "We believe the battle for health care will be won or lost in the doctor's office, so we wanted to be close to that," says Park. But they didn't expect the jungle of red tape that came with getting claims paid.

Growing Pains: Burned out and frustrated with the baby company's withering finances, they went looking for an internet-based billing solution to ease their woes. They couldn't find one, so they built one themselves--and discovered a larger truth. "Billing is killing and frustrating physician practices across the country," says Park. The founders realized they could do more good on a larger scale by making their technology available to physicians everywhere, and Athenahealth was born. Several rounds of VC funding got them growing.

Beyond Billing: "We believe passionately that we are on the same mission we were on when we started the baby company, which is to make health care work the way it should," says Park. That mission doesn't stop with billing. Athena-health is rolling out a major new project for 2006 that will bring the same process control to the clinical side, helping to keep track of lab orders, results and prescriptions.

Athenahealth is the dominant online revenue-cycle management company in an industry that remains highly fragmented. "After all this success, we have less than 1 percent market share," Bush says. That leaves a whole lot of room for Athenahealth to grow.