The Boston Business Journal reported that United had purchased Humedica from a consortium of private equity firms, investment bank Leerink Swann and other investors for "hundreds of millions of dollars."
News of the acquisition comes hard on the heels of Optum's announcement that it is partnering with the Mayo Clinic to launch Optum Labs, a research center that will mine clinical and claims data for insights into how to improve healthcare. Some observers think that the timing may not be a coincidence.
"Humedica is a really well respected firm in the area of data analytics, which is an area that Optum signaled its interest in with the Mayo deal," noted Meg Aranow, senior director, research & insights, for the Advisory Board Company, a healthcare research and consulting firm, in an interview. "Humedica has experience in analyzing data such as the type of data that Mayo will be bringing to the table in that joint venture."
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While Aranow said she was unaware of any previous relationship between Humedica and Mayo Clinic, the big multispecialty group belongs to the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), which signed a contract with Humedica in 2010. Under that arrangement, Humedica works with Anceta, AMGA's health informatics subsidiary, to mine and analyze data in a data warehouse containing clinical information from a number of AMGA member groups. In addition, Humedica applies its MinedShare Ambulatory software-as-a-service to help AMGA groups benchmark their clinical and financial performance.
Because of the fragmentation of the rapidly growing market for data analytics, Aranow said she could not estimate Humedica's market share. But InformationWeek Healthcare recently reported that the company has data on more than 25 million patients in 30 states.
Humedica incorporates that de-identified data into its products. For example, its brochure touts its ability to "provide deep clinical benchmarks at the clinical level internally and organizationally to external provider organizations."
Humedica's access to clinical data has also been important in some of its recent business deals. Last fall, for example, it announced agreements with Joslin Diabetes Center and Pfizer. The announcement of the Joslin deal, aimed at improving diabetes care and education, stated, "Humedica will be providing Joslin's researchers access to a de-identified clinically robust, population health data set." The Pfizer announcement, while less explicit, said the drug company would use Humedica's "expertise in gathering and normalizing de-identified data from disparate systems" to "better understand patient needs and the effectiveness of treatments."
It's unclear for what purposes provider organizations will allow Humedica to use their data, noted Aranow. "Generally, when Humedica works with their customers, the data remains the property of the customer. Unless they have a contract that allows the data to be transferred to them in a de-identified way, that would not be generally how a healthcare organization would approach the deal."
But even without benchmarking data, Humedica's analytics expertise could be valuable to Optum in areas that go beyond clinical research. Like other health insurers, for example, United is interested in accountable care organizations, and Optum has been doing research on care delivery transformation. That was the reason it bought Monarch Healthcare, a big physician network in Southern California, two years ago. In an interview with Hospitals & Health Networks, an Optum executive said the company wanted to learn as much as possible about managing risk at the provider level, "including analytics, care management and care redesign." All of these are core Humedica competencies in the health IT sphere.
Nevertheless, Optum is still not giving out information about the Humedica deal. And all Humedica's Weintraub said in his e-mail to InformationWeek Healthcare was this: "We are excited to partner with Optum to provide physicians and other healthcare leaders with the insight and support they need to improve patient care, reduce costs and serve the health needs of communities."