Laying it on thick at athenahealth…

December 22, 2011

The last time we checked in on Athenahealth (ATHN), the healthcare-IT outfit, they were paying $7.7 million to buy a 396-acre resort on the coast of Maine, as Michelle footnoted in June.

So when they popped up on our radar again last week, we took a closer look.

And we got an eyeful: an 8-K that included the PowerPoint presentation shown to investors at the company’s Fourth Annual Investor Summit on December 15 — a presentation weighing in at a whopping 123 pages. (Curiously, the event was at the company’s Watertown, Massachusetts, headquarters, and not at Point Lookout in Maine — why have a 396-acre resort complete with squash courts and a bowling alley if you’re not going to use it?)

Even at a minute a slide, you’re talking about more than two hours, from several presenters, plus a video, before you get to the Q&A. If you’re really curious, you can see the whole webcast on athenahealth’s Investor Relations site.

But we skimmed the thing and at first thought whomever created this should get some kind of prize for most extensive use of clip-art in a major corporate presentation. Then we realized that some of the icons and images, and maybe most of them, had to be custom-made for anthenahealth.

Take the presentation’s repeated use of “Jedi” imagery and concepts. (“Jedi Knights are warriors who have moved beyond fighting. They have studied so much, so hard, for so long, that they have internalized it. They can feel when things are off before they know why…”) and you can see how easy it is to get to 123 pages.

Throughout, the term is accompanied by a little clip-art image of a doctor (see the stethoscope?) with Yoda-ears, or a sort of caped call-center employee with what we presume is a light-saber:

At one point, athenahealth’s graphics department also got busy slapping little red blindfolds on other images (including an ambulance, test-tube and office building!) to show how the health-care system doesn’t notice cost and quality.

Meantime, deep inside (on page 77), the company even offers an inspirational quote from none other than Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th Century impresario in the art of winning at all costs:

“I am not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.”

We’re not convinced that Machiavelli is the right inspiration when it comes to improving the cut-throat, bloated and mind-numbingly complex health-care system, but the presentation goes on, over three slides with images of medieval Italy and Sienna, to draw a parallel between Niccolo’s focus on key city figures and athenahealth’s plan to “coordinate around key physician influencers.” (To which we can only say, Physician, watch thy back!)

This behemoth of a presentation was spotted (and read) by our former intern extraordinaire, Andy Cheng — he’s moved on to other things, and we’ll miss him! — and he also noted that it came out on a day that athenahealth shares dropped sharply on a bleaker-than-expected full-year earnings forecast.

Overthrowing the health-care status quo — in the sense of endless bureaucracy, lack of transparency and skyrocketing costs — is something we can all get behind, with or without the help of Niccolo Machiavelli. But in the end, we’re not sure that a 123-page PowerPoint presentation is a step in the right direction.

Image source: athenahealth presentation

Don’t forget to vote for the worst footnote of 2011!

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Over on footnotedPro, we’re preparing for the pre-Christmas Friday night dump. We’re expecting some interesting disclosures late Friday afternoon. For more information or to inquire about a trial subscription, email us atpro@footnoted.com.

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