When athenahealth,  Inc. (NASDAQ:ATHN) reported its second-quarter results on July 31, 2018, the big question related to how quickly the company might be acquired. More than three months have passed now, but that question remains unanswered.

The cloud-based healthcare-applications provider was originally scheduled to announce its third-quarter results on Nov. 2, but Athenahealth unexpectedly delayed its quarterly earnings release without an explanation behind the move. The company did, however, report on its third-quarter performance after the market closed on Friday. Here are the highlights from Athenahealth's update.

Physican holding tablet computer standing next to another physician, with a patient in bed in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Athenahealth results: The raw numbers

Metric 

Q3 2018 

Q3 2017 

Year-Over-Year Change

Sales

$331.4 million (old revenue recognition standard)

$329.5 million (new revenue recognition standard)

$304.6 million

8.8%

Net income from continuing operations

$21.5 million (old revenue recognition standard)

$26.4 million (new revenue recognition standard)

$13.0 million

65.4%

Adjusted earnings per share (EPS)

$0.96 (old revenue recognition standard)

$1.08 (new revenue recognition standard)

$0.56

71.4%

Data Source: Athenahealth.

What happened with Athenahealth this quarter?

There are two sets of numbers provided in the table above for Athenahealth's second-quarter results because the company adopted a new revenue recognition standard as of Jan. 1, 2018. Comparisons to the prior-year period aren't meaningful using the new standard, so all year-over-year comparisons use the old revenue recognition standard.

Athenahealth's revenue growth continued to look OK compared to most companies -- but it was much lower than the company's historical growth levels. The company doesn't provide details on how much revenue each of its applications generated. However, Athenahealth does provide network growth statistics that give some insight on its individual products.

Discharge bed days for the company's athenaOne hospital application more than doubled from the prior-year period and grew 19% from the second quarter. Athenahealth reported a 17% year-over-year increase in the number of providers using its athenaOne Clinical software, with a 5% sequential increase. The number of providers using the athenaOne Communicator application rose 16% year over year and 5% quarter over quarter.

Around 13% more providers used Athenahealth's core Collector application in the third quarter of 2018 compared to the same quarter a year ago, with a 4% increase from the second quarter of this year. The only negatives came from the company's population health product, with a 5% year-over-year decline in covered lives and a 7% quarter-over-quarter drop.

How did Athenahealth's bottom line improve so much? The primary factor was the company's cost-cutting efforts. Total operating expenses were 3.6% lower than the prior-year period.  

What management had to say

Athenahealth CFO Marc Levine stated:

We delivered another quarter of solid financial results and have reaffirmed our financial outlook for the year. During Q3, we achieved stable top-line growth on a comparable basis and significantly improved profitability and operating cash flow year over year. We are confident in the opportunities available to Athenahealth. Athenahealth maintains a differentiated position in the market, and continues to drive positive change for our clients, expand the value of our core offerings, and unlock value for our shareholders.

Looking forward

The company still expects full-year 2018 revenue between $1.335 billion and $1.365 billion. GAAP operating income for the year still should come in between $153 million and $187 million, with non-GAAP operating income between $244 million and $270 million.

Last quarter's big question still is the big question: Will Athenahealth be acquired? The company provided no hints in its press release about progress on that front. It's possible that management will provide an update in its conference call scheduled for 5 p.m. EST on Monday, Nov. 12.

Athenahealth has had at least one interested party. Elliott Management offered to buy the company for $160 per share in May. That figure is roughly 33% higher than Athenahealth's current share price. For now, though, investors will have to keep waiting.

Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Athenahealth. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.