UnitedHealth Group Launches Cloud Platform for Health App Development

UnitedHealth Group's Optum unit has launched a cloud platform to host applications in an open environment.

UnitedHealth Group's Optum health services business has launched an open-cloud platform to allow developers to create and host health care applications.

The cloud offers a developer toolkit with modules that allow doctors to maintain compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It also includes a toolkit for CIOs to enable deployment of internal and external applications, as well as templates to build a master patient index.

A dashboard enables health professionals to access patient information and various applications they use on a daily basis to form their care plans for patients. They can access email, text and video messages, as well as schedules and a health app marketplace.

"The dashboard provides a user-friendly interface where users can manage their information, work, time and the applications they use," Ted Hoy, senior vice president and general manager of cloud platforms at Optum, wrote in an email to eWEEK.

The health care cloud could also connect patients' applications with biometric monitors and the health information systems of doctors, hospitals and health plans.

It also allows caregivers to coordinate care with specialists and patients using secure text and video chat capabilities. Doctors can use the messaging tools to send notifications to care teams. These communication capabilities could allow doctors, nurses and hospital administrators to meet government Accountable Care Organization (ACO) guidelines, in which doctors coordinate care and are reimbursed for quality of care for Medicare patients, rather than being paid per visit.

Optum's health cloud could enable health care organizations to reduce some of the costs and time required by creating apps and bringing them to market, said Hoy. The cloud could also alleviate some of the compliance obstacles, he added.

"These health care-specific capabilities allow companies to focus investment on incremental value creation versus rebuilding the same compliance, again," said Hoy.

The Optum health cloud uses Cisco's networking and security, EMC enhanced Java and virtual machines, IBM back-end data processing and business-intelligence applications, and HP servers and analytics, Hoy noted.

In addition to the health cloud, Optum also announced its Optum Care Suite Feb. 14. The Optum Care Suite comprises applications that doctors and health professionals can use to run analytics on patients and population health. The suite also includes collaboration and automated reporting tools. It culls data from electronic health records (EHRs) and genetics databases.

Optum Care Pathways allows doctors using the Optum Care Suite to establish care plans involving multiple providers, and Optum Care Coordination enables physician teams to track and document patient care across settings and providers. Another application, Optum Care Quality, brings together data from claims, clinical records and patient-reported outcomes and compiles reports on quality and compliance.

Meanwhile, Optum Care Population provides registries of people with various conditions and allows health professionals to follow the health of specific populations of patients. Health intelligence could give hospital administrators insight into potential spikes in ER visits based on population health data for conditions such as asthma.

"Optum Care Suite provides the user-friendly applications to deliver [health data] to end users in graphical, intuitive formats that support their ability to make better decisions," said Hoy.

In addition to Optum Care Suite, the health care cloud also offers a Healthcare Scheduling Exchange (HSE) from MyHealthDirect, a portal for health plans, hospitals, care management organizations and public agencies.

The HSE allows doctors' offices to schedule appointments and provide referrals. Through the Optum health care cloud, HSE can integrate with time-management applications used by doctors and hospitals.

Optum will demonstrate the cloud service at the HIMSS12 health care IT conference in Las Vegas, beginning Feb. 20.

The company plans to release a software development kit (SDK) for health care in the second quarter of 2012.