University of California physicians and researchers will have access to one of the largest medical databases of patient records in the country, under an agreement signed last Thursday with insurance company UnitedHealth Group, Inc.
The patient records will be used to better UC physicians and researchers’ understanding of medical data. According to the agreement, both entities will also create an accountable care organization, which is a joint group to better cooperate and control healthcare.
John D. Stobo, executive vice president of UC Health, said in a statement that the partnership with UnitedHealth aligns with the University’s strategy to deliver cost-effective, higher-quality health care.
“Health care is changing rapidly, and this relationship will help us stay on the leading edge to improve the health of Californians,” Stobo said.
OptumLabs, a research center created by UnitedHealth and Mayo Clinic, will create an office in San Francisco early next year to help UC physicians and researchers access its database. The database, which will not include patients’ identities, has medical records for more than 50 million people.
Robert Falkenberg, chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare of California, said in a statement that the program will integrate both value and effectiveness into its clinical practices in California.
“This collaboration combines UnitedHealthcare’s care provider network and UC Health with Optum’s capabilities to advance patient care into a national model for integration,” Falkenberg said.
Nadereh Pourat, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research’s Health Economics and Evaluation Research Program, said the Affordable Care Act has promoted creation of accountable care organizations. She said the goal of an ACO is to organize different healthcare organizations under a contractual obligation so they can collaborate and deliver more effective healthcare.
“The ACO makes sure patients get what they need, and don’t get services that are not medically effective,” Pourat said.
Because ACOs are a relatively new development, their effects on healthcare are not clear, Pourat said.
“It’s a cautious optimism,” Pourat said.
OptumLabs also plans to sponsor an internship program for the students to be trained on analyzing medical data. UnitedHealth will also donate $1 million to the UC Health to support the University’s efforts on training its students on data analysis as well, according to the press release.