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HHS teams up with OptumLabs for healthcare research

Gov't agency and UnitedHealth-Mayo Clinic collaborative will analyze trends in insurance claims data

OptumLabs, the healthcare innovation center that was created by UnitedHealth Group's Optum division and the Mayo Clinic, will now work with the federal government on healthcare research initiatives.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has joined OptumLabs as a research partner, UnitedHealth announced Tuesday, a partnership the agency believes will help it "harness the power of health data to improve patient care and outcomes," Susannah Fox, HHS' chief technology officer, said in the announcement.

"Government is a key stakeholder in healthcare, and through this partnership now has a seat at the table of our collaborative community at OptumLabs," added OptumLabs CEO Paul Bleicher, M.D., Ph.D.

Launched in 2013, OptumLabs has had the overarching goal of creating a "neutral place to conduct research" and make the findings public, UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley said at the time, adding that the collaboration's goal is not to make money. The insurer's separate Optum healthcare services division, though, has been a lucrative asset for the company.

The research collaborative has previously worked with AARP, Boston Scientific, Tufts Medical Center, and other academic institutions and healthcare systems.

HHS and OptumLabs, along with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, will start their collaboration with a project that compares healthcare trends identified in the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey with real-world administrative healthcare claims records for the commercially insured population in OptumLabs' databases, according to the announcement.

HHS also plans to work with OptumLabs on population health and healthcare economics research, including an initiative to identify healthcare delivery disparities. Reducing care inequality for underserved, high-risk populations already is a priority for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which has developed a plan to tackle outcomes disparities with the help of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

To learn more:
- read the announcement

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