UnitedHealth uses Optum Labs research to drive change

Through its partnership with Mayo Clinic to create the research institution Optum Labs, UnitedHealth Group aims to drive change in the healthcare industry, according to a study in this month's issue of Health Affairs.

Optum Labs takes advantage of various perspectives and has access to robust data for research, offering a unique method for testing new ideas that will inform operational and policy decisions throughout the industry, the study noted.

"The combination of the diverse collaborator perspectives with rich data, including deep patient and provider information, is intended to reveal new insights about diseases, treatments and patients' behavior to guide changes in practice," Paul Wallace, chief medical officer and senior vice president of clinical translation at Optum Labs, wrote in the study.

UnitedHealth and Mayo Clinic launched Optum Labs in 2013 with the overarching goal of creating a neutral place to conduct research and make the findings public, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. Since its inception, it has collaborated with several organizations, including AARP, Boston Scientific and Tufts Medical Center, as well as other academic institutions and healthcare systems.

The key to Optum Labs's ability to conduct research is its "high-quality, integrated, up-to-date" database of de-identified claims and clinical data from several insurers and providers. The data warehouse includes information for more than 150 million people, covering 10 years of consumer enrollment information, medical and pharmacy claims, and lab results.

Already, Optum Labs has completed several research studies, with others under way, Health Affairs noted. For example, the research center examined more than 116,000 knee replacement surgeries and almost 10,000 revision surgeries performed on people too young to be eligible for Medicare. The study found all age groups examined had a steady increase in knee surgeries, and patients' diabetes and obesity increased substantially during the 10-year study period

To learn more:
- here's the Health Affairs study abstract