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UnitedHealth will launch cloud-computing platform

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
cloud-computing, electronic medical records, UnitedHealthcare, apps

Minnetonka, MN - Currently, cloud computing is a popular buzzword tossed around by anyone with even a casual interest in computers and the Internet. Another hot button topic is computerized medical records. On February 14, UnitedHealth Group Inc., reportedly the nation’s single largest health carrier, announced that it was embracing cloud-computing. The health insurance provider plans to launch a new cloud-computing platform focused on healthcare providers and insurers.

The new product will be previewed at the HIMSS 2012 conference in Las Vegas, February 20-24."The Optum health care cloud will support widespread innovation across the health system by removing barriers to applications development and by helping health care professionals work together more easily to enhance patient care," noted Ted Hoy, senior vice president and general manager of cloud business platforms at Optum.

The new cloud-computing platform is a component of the current trend of moving data storage and functions into an online environment so that they can be retrieved from multiple devices and locations. Many healthcare companies, which have embraced electronic medical records currently offer them in a cloud-based style; however, Optum plans to take the concept to another level by opening up its cloud environment to outside developers; these companies will be able to offer apps in a similarmanner to that of Apple Inc.'s app store.

According to Optum, one of the initial apps will be one developed with the help of the Cleveland Clinic, which will help healthcare providers structure payments for "bundles" of care, meaning for all services tied to a particular procedure or condition. Another, under development from HealthLoop Inc., will aid physicians oversee their patients' follow-up care. The new apps, which will include offerings from Optum itself, will initially be focused on physicians, hospitals, and health plans. According to Optum, the company may eventually add offerings for consumers and other parties such as government healthcare payers and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Optum plans to charge for data storage, which could contain information such as a hospital’s digital patient records.

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The Optum health care cloud features secure text and video chat capabilities, which it notes will help healthcare professionals connect, communicate, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals and as well as patients. It also includes productivity tools that easily integrate with a range of health IT systems to help doctors, nurses and other clinicians, and health administrators organize their information and resources in one, simple interface, accessible securely from any Internet-connected device.

For example, the health care cloud can integrate the applications that patients use, such as biometric monitors, with the health information systems used by physician practices, hospitals, and health plans. This feature will allow electronic medical records to maintain up-to-date information and automate the delivery of progress notes to members of the care team. Working from a common set of complete patient information, physicians and patients can make treatment decisions together, track progress, and stay connected between appointments. According to Optum, its healthcare cloud also enhances patient safety by ensuring all care team members can access consistent information from diagnosis through the end of treatment. In addition, notes Optum, its healthcare cloud is likely to save time for physicians and administrators because it will streamline key quality measurement, regulatory compliance, billing and other administrative tasks.

"We're going to make collaboration possible in ways it is certainly not possible today," noted Andy Slavitt, Optum group executive vice president. He added that Optum plans to open up a beta version of its service in June and hopes to roll it out more broadly late this year.

Source: UnitedHealth Group Inc.

See Also: Electronic medical record transition faces obstacles