UnitedHealth Group Embraces Telehealth
UnitedHealth Group Embraces Telehealth
… UnitedHealth Group Building TeleHealth Capabilities with New Acquisition …

UNITEDHEALTH GROUP EMBRACES TELEHEALTH WITH VIVIFY HEALTH ACQUISITION

The largest commercial healthcare payer in the United States invests in its telehealth capabilities with its latest acquisition

John G. Baresky

  • UnitedHealth Group acquires Vivify Health based in Plano, Texas
  • Vivify’s business centers on remote patient monitoring technology
  • A variety of clients including hospitals, health systems, long term care and other healthcare provider organizations are Vivify customers
  • UnitedHealth Group can deploy Vivify Health applications within its business units plus continue marketing its solutions to additional healthcare provider organizations

Telehealth continues to build momentum in the United States and UnitedHealth Group’s ( United Healthcare, Optum ) acquisition of Vivify Health exemplifies this trend. Vivify, based in Plano, Texas ( a suburb of Dallas ) centers on remote patient monitoring technology. It enables individuals to be monitored while they are home and as symptoms, vital signs and other variables change, healthcare providers can be notified. This can prevent emergency room visits as well as facilitate a nurse visit to the home of the patient to care for them before conditions progress to a more serious state.

Vivify utilizes mobile, cloud-based information technology and its own suite of healthcare software applications which encompass these and other capabilities:

  • Biometric data monitoring
  • Personalized care plans
  • Text-to-speech configured to the needs of each patient
  • Video education and conferencing

Some of the patient care issues Vivify technology supports includes:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease ( COPD )
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Oncology
  • Pain Management
  • Weight Management

UnitedHealth Group’s Optum business unit orchestrated the deal. Vivify, which was founded in 2009, is used by these and other healthcare provider and service organizations:

  • Alignment Health
  • American Medical Response
  • Ascension Health
  • Children’s Hospital of Colorado
  • Interim Healthcare
  • Memorial Hermann
  • Ontario Telemedicine Network
  • SCL Health
  • Shannon Medical Center
  • Trinity Health
  • University Health Network ( Canada )
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center ( UPMC )
  • Vanderbilt University Health

The acquisition of Vivify is part of UnitedHealth Group’s ongoing initiatives to expand its business model. They have gone well beyond the traditional offerings of a healthcare insurance company as they further develop healthcare provider operations. Recent mergers, acquisitions and investments it has made include:

  • Surgical Care Affiliates ( $2.3 billion )
  • DaVita Medical Group ( $4.3 billion )
  • Reliant Medical Group ( $28 million )
  • Equian, a healthcare billing firm ( $2.3 billion )
  • A hearing aid health insurance company and a sizable investment into a physician staffing firm

Like other plans, such as Anthem and Aetna, have chosen to expand their covered lives, conventional managed care plans and PBM units, UHC has chosen a different route. By acquiring medical practices and provider organizations, UHC has a more direct influence on patient care, treatment protocols and costs associated with them.

Through adding SCA and the other medical provider organizations to their business model, it provides different streams of revenue for UHC. It also improves its position to negotiate rates with other health systems and care providers. While United Healthcare has a long way to go to reach the scale Kaiser Permanente has in terms of patient care services, its investments in the provider sector indicate they have a sound long term plan to assertively grow this side of their business. The Vivify acquisition provides them with an asset to improve patient care, make data-driven decisions and help them accelerate into precision medicine and population health initiatives.

The acquisition of Vivify reinforces their position as a payer and a provider by providing a means to collect rich data, monitor higher-risk patients and better manage care and costs. Vivify features more than 90 clinical and engagement pathways which can be combined in thousands of ways and provide an array of patient care and population health solutions. Remote monitoring enables patients to be assessed on the go in real-time and live at home rather than having to be managed in an assisted living or long term care setting. This provides a higher quality of life for them with significant cost advantages for payers like UnitedHealth Group.

There is also the potential for UnitedHealth Group to intertwine elements of the Vivify applications with the technology and features of its Rally program. Rally is a healthy lifestyle initiative that includes dieting, exercise and other personal care improvements that is available through a website and mobile application which also provides phone support.

The acquisition of Vivify adds a new dimension to UnitedHealth Group with its platform to further explore telehealth applications and remote patient monitoring. UHC can deploy the technology within its healthcare provider organizations while continuing to market it to existing Vivify Health customers and new clients as well to increase revenue. There is also the potential for UnitedHealth Group to not only market Vivify solutions to hospitals, health systems and medical practice groups but also partner with them in clinical and cost data and patient care initiatives. It is worth watching to see if its competitors, including Aetna, Centene, Cigna, Humana, Anthem or other BCBS plans mirror their move by acquiring similar healthcare technology firms associated with telehealth/telemedicine and remote patient monitoring.

Terms of the Vivify Health transaction were not disclosed. As an integrated healthcare enterprise, Vivify and United Healthcare can develop their own proprietary telehealth/telemedicine solutions organically as well as plug and play new application attributes and features through additional technology acquisitions. UnitedHealth Group has the potential to grow well beyond being a managed care organization and risk management enterprise coupled with select healthcare provider operations; it can become a medical diagnostic and device leader in patient monitoring and allied healthcare technologies.

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