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UnitedHealth Joins Mayo Clinic in Pact to Improve Care

UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest U.S. provider of medical coverage, will join the Mayo Clinic in a research alliance designed to merge insurance records and medical data to find more efficient ways to deliver care.

The venture will focus on fundamental issues that may help standardize care in a way that will lower costs, said Veronique Roger, head of the clinic’s Center for the Science of Health Delivery. This could include things such as analyzing the steps needed for successful hip replacement surgery or ways to get patients to consistently take their medicines, she said.

“Every doctor, every nurse, every academic medical center wants only to do the right thing for their patients,” said John Noseworthy, the clinic’s chief executive officer. “Mayo has been on this path forever, but we have not been able to do it on a grand scale, as we’ll be able to do with this relationship.”

The alliance will be based in an “innovation center” known as Optum Labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and will have a staff of about 60. No financial terms were disclosed.

The two organizations chose Cambridge as neutral territory, where health providers, industry leaders and researchers from around the U.S. can work together to improve patient care and boost efficiency, said Andy Slavitt, group executive vice president at Optum, a technology and consulting unit for UnitedHealth that analyzes insurance records and advises employers, hospitals and other clients on best practices.

“We are bringing together our assets, technology, tools, and research scientists in a dedicated facility,” said Stephen Hemsley, chief executive officer of Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth. “This is the beginning. We want to create an innovation center for the health care industry to make an impact for the benefit of individual patients and to contribute to the overall improvement of care.”

Eventually the pair plans to invite others from the health care industry to join their efforts, either on a project-by-project basis or a longer-term commitment, the executives said.

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