By Jeff Kiger
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
Mayo Clinic has high hopes for a cooperative venture that will study "big data" from patient records to look for patterns that will help improve care.
Mayo announced Tuesday that it has entered into "a strategic research alliance" with Optum, a technology and consulting division of the Minnetonka, Minn.-based health insurer UnitedHealth Group.
The state-of-the-art research facility called Optum Labs recently opened in in Cambridge, Mass., and hired some staff, with a goal of having a team of about 60 working there, said Andy Slavitt, group executive vice president at Optum.
Slavitt says the insurance claims and patient records are very valuable assets when trying to improve health care. While other organizations have analyzed one or the other type of data, bringing them them together is what makes this initiative unique.
Mayo Clinic will have some employees working at the lab. The clinic is also working with Optum to develop an oversight committee for the project.
"This started as idea to do something different that we haven't seen before. This open innovation facility brings terrific assets together," says Slavic.
Mayo and Optum are bringing medical records and claims data together "in effort to find the "best outcomes for patients at the lowest cost," the announcement said.
"We believe patients should expect more out of health care," says Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. John Noseworthy.
To help the whole industry improve, the plan is to analyze millions of patient records and insurance claims to identify trends to improve standard treatments for conditions such as heart failure.
"This is first time anyone has ever done anything like this," says Noseworthy.
Mayo and Optum eventually want to bring more health care-related operations and their data into the mix for collaborations. Each such project would require its own individualized business agreement.
Optum Labs is a for-profit unit of UnitedHealthcare's Optum division, which earned $1.3 billion in 2011. However, both of the allies in the joint project say this is only about making health care better. Money is not a consideration.
"Neither Optum or Mayo Clinic is setting up Optum Labs to make a profit," says Slavic.
Speaking for Mayo Clinic, Noseworthy sees this is the beginning of something that could transform the U.S. health care system.
"This is really a big deal," he says.