UnitedHealth Group CEO Wichmann teases development of new digital therapeutics

The outside of UnitedHealth Group's headquarters
UnitedHealth Group reported its third-quarter earnings Wednesday morning. (UnitedHealth Group)

Earlier this year, UnitedHealth Group unveiled a digital therapy platform for patients with diabetes called Level2. CEO David Wichmann said the company sees more opportunity to continue developing such therapies.

"Our growing therapeutics capacities are positively impacting the management of chronic diseases," Wichmann said on a call with investors Wednesday morning.

Level2, which UHG revealed in July, provides eligible members with Type 2 diabetes with a slate of connected devices they can use to track their conditions. They also receive one-on-one coaching with the goal of helping them achieve a healthier lifestyle.

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The program aims to significantly improve the lives of its members, including helping some achieve remission.

RELATED: UnitedHealth launches digital Type 2 diabetes therapy Level2 

Wichmann said that the Level2 platform, which also uses artificial intelligence to generate actionable insights, is generating better outcomes for the members who've enrolled in it thus far.

"You can expect more digital therapeutics from us in the coming months and years," he added.

Wichmann also touted UnitedHealth's efforts to scale up its telehealth offerings amid COVID-19. OptumCare providers have conducted 1 million digital clinical visits so far this year, he said.

UHG is also working to develop "a proprietary set of distinctive tools" that it can use to further grow in the telehealth space.

"I’m sure you can see how advancing modern telehealth fits into our overall strategy to build high performing systems of care," Wichmann said.

UnitedHealth Group kicked off third-quarter earnings for major health plans Wednesday, reporting $3.2 billion in profit.

The healthcare giant's quarterly earnings were down slightly from $3.5 billion in the third quarter of 2019, though its profits through three quarters outpaced last year. Through Sept. 30, UnitedHealth Group earned $13.2 billion in earnings, compared to $10.3 billion through Sept. 30, 2019.

Revenues for the quarter were also up 8%, reaching $65.1 billion, compared to $60.35 billion in the third quarter of 2019.

The company said its growth was bolstered by Optum, which saw revenue growth of 21% in the third quarter, and UnitedHealthcare's public sector and senior benefits business lines.

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Wichmann touted the company's performance amid efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic in a statement.

“The people of UnitedHealth Group continue to deliver more innovative and modern solutions for customers, physicians and consumers, while responding to the needs of the people and communities affected by the pandemic,” Wichmann said. “We’re encouraged to see those we serve respond to the incentives we offered to safely seek care as the health system continued to recover in the quarter.”

UnitedHealthcare posted revenues of $50.4 billion for the quarter, and UnitedHealth Group said in its release that membership losses in the commercial business were offset by the performance of the public-sector and senior businesses.

UnitedHealth Group is well-positioned for growth in a number of areas, according to the report, with a strong position in the Medicare Advantage market for 2021 and entry into three new states for Medicaid managed care plans.

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Optum's revenues reached $34.9 billion, up from $28.8 billion in the third quarter of 2019. UnitedHealth Group's diverse subsidiary saw strong performance in number of areas, according to the report.

For one, OptumHealth served 98 million people in the third quarter, an increase of 3 million over the prior-year quarter, with revenue per patient served up 25%. Optum attributes that performance notably to its value-based care arrangements.

Script volumes at the pharmacy benefit management arm OptumRx are approaching normal levels, UnitedHealth Group said, increasing by 9 million to reach 325 million scripts filled.

As a result of the performance in the quarter, UnitedHealth Group raised its earnings guidance from between $16.25 and $16.55 per share to between $16.50 and $16.75 per share.