Here’s Why Boston Sci’s Partnership with UnitedHealth’s Optum Labs is Important

Boston Scientific has become the first medical device company to team up with Optum Labs, the health research and innovation lab backed by insurance giant UnitedHealth. But what does this partnership really mean?

May 8, 2014

2 Min Read
Here’s Why Boston Sci’s Partnership with UnitedHealth’s Optum Labs is Important

Few device, or any other publication for that matter, reported on the news that Boston Scientific has joined Optum Labs as its founding medical device partner.

And when they did, they missed the point of the partnership altogether.

Yes, Boston Scientific becomes the first medical device company to join forces with Optum Labs, which is UnitedHealth’s healthcare research and innovation group. Optum Labs was co-founded by the Mayo Clinic, and Optum, UnitedHealth’s the health IT and services unit. Late last year, the AARP came on board as the Founding Consumer Advocate Organization. Other companies and organizations have joined forces too including Pfizer, Tufts Medical Center, the University of Minnesota, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, among others.

But what this announcement underscores is how medical device companies are finally embracing data and research to figure out what therapies work. And, even more importantly, how to reduce healthcare costs, something that device makers have largely ignored in the past.

Boston Scientific’s emphasis will, not surprisingly, be on heart failure, it being a condition that leads to frequent hospital admissions of patients. The Boston Scientific-Optum Labs collaboration aims to develop a “body of research that addresses the complexities, unmet needs and challenges facing patients with heart failure,” according to a news release announcing the partnership Tuesday.


The research will consider innovative practice patterns, performance measures, management of co-morbid conditions, processes of care and economic implications. The research will also leverage Optum Labs’ scientific and analytical resources to help understand points in the patient care continuum where existing or potential new products and services could improve the efficiency of care delivery, the value of care and overall population health management.

Such collaboration between payers and medical device companies are critical amid tectonic shifts in the healthcare market. It helps device makers understand which therapies work and where therapies may be developed instead of blindly adding features to existing technology and charging a premium for it. That model of product development and sales is largely broken.

Such collaboration also helps payers manage costs better as they can can take their knowledge of what therapies have better clinical outcomes to drive coverage decisions. 

Boston Scientific is not the only medical device company that is collaborating with a large insurance company.

In early March, Aetna CEO announced that it is working with Medtronic to combat heart failure and diabetes. Theirs is not a research collaboration, but in the end both are different approaches to lowering cost of managing chronic conditions

Device makers' decision to work with payers may have come belatedly but nonetheless is a step in the right direction.

Now everyone is focused on lowering costs and improving clinical outcomes, a good place to start.

 [Photo Credit: akindo]

-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor, MD+DI
[email protected]

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