UnitedHealth sinks $250M into digital health venture fund

UnitedHealth is the latest healthcare organization to dip its toes into the venture capital space, announcing the creation of Optum Ventures, which will focus on investing in digital health startups.

The insurer has set aside an initial investment of $250 million to launch the new venture arm that will focus on companies that use data and analytics to improve healthcare delivery and reimbursement and simplify the healthcare system for consumers, according to an announcement. The new VC fund will operate through Optum, UnitedHealth’s health IT business line.

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Beyond funding, startups will gain access to the company’s analytics, research and testing capabilities, along with guidance from industry experts. Optum Ventures kicked off its announcement with an initial investment in four startups that focus on using analytics and machine learning to provide clinicians with clinical insights, help patients manage mental health conditions and understand their symptoms with a digital assistant. 

“Optum Ventures is uniquely positioned to help develop and grow startups and early-stage companies through capital investment, Optum’s decades of experience in healthcare and our access to the healthcare marketplace,” said Larry Renfro, CEO of Optum and Managing Partner of Optum Ventures.

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Over the last year, more hospital systems have launched venture capital arms to fund new digital health startups, including Michigan-based Spectrum Health, which invested $100 million into a venture capital fund.

Others systems have invested in innovation labs. In June, BJC Healthcare devoted $20 million over the next 10 years to an innovation lab focused on using technology to improve care. Hackensack Meridian Health also spent $25 million on a new innovation lab mimicking the popular reality TV show “Shark Tank.”