UnitedHealth launching Apple-like cloud service for care coordination

UnitedHealth's Optum unit is launching a new healthcare cloud-computing platform, which stores information and applications on remote servers accessed through a secure Internet connection, to help share medical data among healthcare professionals in hopes of improving care coordination.

Although many companies already provide cloud computing for healthcare purposes, Optum is going a step further than existing platforms by allowing outside developers to offer apps available through their cloud service, thereby creating an environment similar to the Apple app store, reported The Wall Street Journal.

"The Optum health care cloud will support widespread innovation across the health system by removing barriers to applications development and by helping health care professionals work together more easily to enhance patient care," said Ted Hoy, senior vice president and general manager of cloud business platforms at Optum.

Optum's cloud will feature secure text, video chat and productivity tools to help doctors and other healthcare professionals organize information and resources in one interface. The cloud also will enhance patient safety by ensuring all care team members access consistent patient information and will streamline quality measurement, regulatory compliance, billing and other administrative tasks, noted EmaxHealth.

The service, which initially is targeted for hospitals, doctors and health plans, also will enable physicians to, for example, receive automatic updates regarding a patient's condition or provide notification when a patient goes to the emergency room or doesn't fill prescriptions, according to the Associated Press.

Among the initially available apps on Optum's cloud is a Cleveland Clinic-developed program that helps doctors structure bundled payments and another program that helps doctors oversee patients' follow-up care, the WSJ noted. Optum also is encouraging providers to design their own apps for the cloud.

Optum plans to launch a beta cloud version in June and roll it out more broadly later this year. Meanwhile, the company is previewing its cloud service at the HIMSS 2012 conference next week in Las Vegas.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article (subscription required)
- see the EmaxHealth article
- check out the Associated Press article