Intacct partners with athenahealth to offer health industry ERP

As competition heats up, verticals are increasingly the way for cloud vendors to differentiate.

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I've been writing about cloud accounting vendor Intacct for a good number of years. I've always thought of Intacct as having a harder time of it than is totally fair -- it gains far less media coverage than its larger, and publicly listed, cloud competitor NetSuite. At the same time, its most similarly positioned competitor, FinancialForce, has managed to leverage its Salesforce partnership (FinancialForce is built on the Salesforce platform and Salesforce is an investor in the company) to punch above its weight when it comes to brand recognition.

That's not to say that Intacct hasn't been doing well -- after all, the opportunity for vendors delivering cloud-based back office solutions is huge. There is a significant prospective customer base here, from companies growing out of solution for small and midsize businesses (such as Intuit and Sage) to those already on a midmarket solution but needing something with the core benefits that cloud solutions bring (scalability, flexibility, integratability etc.).

Intacct has done well, albeit with little attention and from a low base, to grow both its customer base and its product breadth. These challenges shouldn't be understated for a small, privately funded company -- Intacct has had to battle hard to get to where it is. But as more and more attention goes into the cloud software space, it is important for vendors like Intacct to make sure that they keep finding ways to differentiate.

A case in point is the partnership that Intacct and athenahealth, a Nasdaq-listed company, have just announced. athenahealth (and, as an aside, that forced lowercase "a" at the start of its name is somewhat jarring) offers network-enabled services and mobile applications for healthcare providers throughout the U.S. The company offers services for electronic health records (EHR), revenue cycle management, and medical billing, patient engagement, care coordination and population health management, as well as Epocrates and other point-of-care mobile apps.

Since athenahealth is a cloud provider that is focused more on the front end of the health provider experience, it makes sense for it to partner with a cloud vendor that is focused more on the back office. The partnership sees the two organizations offer a comprehensive cloud-based financial solution for hospitals. Alongside the product offering, under the terms of the agreement, athenahealth will also sell Intacct's financial applications with its revenue cycle management services.

“At athenahealth, we're focused on being a trusted partner to healthcare organizations of all sizes, one that enables them to focus more on the practice of medicine and less on the associated business processes and administrative tasks," said Kyle Armbrester, chief product officer, athenahealth. "By partnering with Intacct, we've vastly extended the value and measurable results we bring to hospitals. Together, we've combined our financial, accounting and clinical expertise to bring to market a new standard of cloud services that we believe will redefine what's possible when it comes to visibility into, and management surrounding, the entire financial picture for hospitals."

According to the company, Mount Grant General Hospital in Hawthorne, Nev., earlier this year started using Intacct to improve its accounts payable workflow. "As a small hospital we can easily get bogged down in an avalanche of tasks," said Greg Schumann, manager of IT at the hospital. "Since we can only afford to hire so many people, we have to be super-efficient in whatever we do. With Intacct integrated into athenaClinicals, our entire back-office team now has the tools to improve our organizational and operational abilities -- whether it's getting invoices into the system, scheduling payments, cutting checks, doing reconciliations or general ledger tasks."

As the companies point out, while commonplace in other industries, the ability to introduce and scale new offerings via a cloud-enabled network is lacking in healthcare. athenahealth's introduction of Intacct across its network will happen immediately and will become generally available in May.

It seems a natural deal for these two companies to make, and I suspect we will see a counter-move by other cloud ERP vendors to ensure they don't miss out on this very lucrative opportunity.

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