Diabetic patients are a popular target population for health systems that hope to improve patients' health with better care coordination and closer management. But new research from an insurer-owned, big-data analytics project suggests diabetes management can be too aggressive.
The findings are some of the first to come out of OptumLabs, a research collaborative owned by UnitedHealth Group's management and analytics subsidiary Optum, of which the Mayo Clinic is a founding partner. Now in its third year, OptumLabs has produced nearly two dozen studies and expanded its membership and ambitions. That growth comes as competition to mine healthcare's ocean of data intensifies. IBM Corp., which in April launched its health analytics arm Watson Health, Geisinger Health System's xG Health Solutions, and Aetna are among the companies vying to crunch big data sets to better understand what works and what doesn't in healthcare. These companies hope to develop strategies, services and products to capitalize on that information.
The Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Group Association, another OptumLabs member, are starting to apply the research consortium's early results. Lab officials say practical application is the goal of all OptumLabs' projects. OptumLabs' members consider which research projects to pursue based on which ones could help inform clinical decisionmaking.
“They think about translation from Day One,” said Dr. John Cuddeback, chief medical informatics officer of the American Medical Group Association.
Using OptumLabs data on more than a million patients with Type 2 diabetes, Mayo researchers studied the potential for overtreatment among those diabetics who receive frequent testing for blood sugar but don't have problems controlling their glucose level. Meanwhile, it's estimated that 8.1 million diabetics in the U.S., or about one-quarter of everyone with the disease, remain undiagnosed.