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Big-data collaborative Optum Labs adds seven partners


By Rachel Landen
Posted: February 13, 2014 - 2:45 pm ET
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Optum Labs, a Cambridge, Mass.-based research and innovation center established by UnitedHealth Group's Optum unit and the Mayo Clinic, is expanding with the addition of seven health organization partners.

“We're bringing together healthcare partners from across the healthcare ecosystem,” Optum Labs CEO Dr. Paul Bleicher said.

“They are organizations that typically are engaged in research and innovation around healthcare and others who aren't typically engaged in research.”

But the common thread, Bleicher said, is that all are passionately interested in outcomes and translating research into improved patient care.

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The latest partners are the American Medical Group Association, Alexandria, Va.; Boston University School of Public Health; Lehigh Valley Health Network, Allentown, Pa.; Pfizer, New York; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.; Tufts Medical Center, Boston; and the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, Minneapolis. These seven join the AARP, which recently became a founding consumer advocate organization in the Optum Labs space.

The collaborative is envisioned as a community of partners sharing information and knowledge, technologies and tools, and their own scientific expertise on a variety of research that can affect healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.

The lab provides support in the form of Optum Labs' economists, actuaries, researchers and a large database of de-identified clinical and claims data. A major part of Optum's mission is analyzing so-called big data in hopes of finding what works in healthcare.

“The partners are coming in with research ideas and interacting with each other to find new ways of looking at difficult problems,” Bleicher said.

Two areas currently receiving particular attention are longevity and wellness. More than 20 research initiatives covering a vast spectrum—including medical-device effectiveness, geographic variation in care and employee productivity—are currently in progress.

Bleicher expects more organizations to sign on, but he says the work is not just about benefitting those currently involved or those who may participate in the future.

“We're trying to create something that's going to help the healthcare system as a whole,” he said.

Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden


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