OptumLabs CEO describes how big data improves healthcare

OptumLabs is having success with its research projects in both improving cost and quality in healthcare, according to a report in the Star Tribune.

In an interview with the Minnesota newspaper, Paul Bleicher, M.D., CEO of OptumLabs, talked about some of the research being done at the Boston-based healthcare innovation center that launched in 2013.

Two studies using data from the Mayo Clinic may change the way healthcare is delivered, Bleicher said. In one study, researchers compared the use of new anticoagulant medicines with the old standard of care--using Warfarin with atrial fibrillation. The center's researchers were able to determine that bleeding risks changed with these new anticoagulants when used in older patients starting at around age 75.

The second recently published study found that hemoglobin A1C testing was being overutilitzed in patients who had stable Type 2 diabetes. This common test to track a patient's blood sugar levels can be managed with a more appropriate testing interval that can reduce costs, Bleicher said.

OptumLabs was created by a partnership between UnitedHealth Group's Optum division and the Mayo Clinic and allows researchers to mine the insurance company's claims for more than 109 million people and the healthcare system's five million patient records to determine best treatments and procedures for various health conditions. In November, the Department of Health and Human Services joined OptumLabs as a research partner, allowing access to even more health data, as the federal agency is the country's single largest healthcare payer with its Medicare and Medicaid programs.

So what lies ahead for OptumLabs? "One of the things that OptumLabs is really interested in at this point is the voice of the patient," Bleicher said. Researchers hope to identify even more data to track more directly to the patient's day-to-day experience, he added.

 To learn more:
- read the interview with Paul Bleicher