(TNS) -- UnitedHealth Group is the owner of a mind-bending amount of information on the people it insures — some 28 petabytes of deidentified patient data, covering 160 million lives, is housed in its Optum Labs subsidiary alone.
Somewhere in UnitedHealth's databanks is information that shows how well Medtronic's insulin pumps for diabetes patients work over time. The data also include insights about what practices at the Mayo Clinic have led to the hospital system's reputation for world-class health care.
But how can that data be leveraged in a system where an insurer, a technology provider and a hospital may be accustomed to doing business in arm's length transactions that aim to maximize each one's own profit?
"No one is going to have, in isolation, all the data for everything. So you need to work with others," Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak said Tuesday at AdvaMed 2016, the medical device conference happening at the Minneapolis Convention Center. "Using data to change outcomes is the way ... we've got to approach this."
The decade-old, traveling AdvaMed conference staged by the industry trade group of the same name set an attendance record Tuesday — more than 2,500 people gathered to see events like top leaders from Medtronic, Mayo and UnitedHealth Group talk about Big Data.
Dr. Richard Migliori, chief medical officer of UnitedHealth Group, said the nation's largest private health insurer formed its Optum Labs subsidiary in cooperation with Mayo several years ago to address the need to bring together disparate sets of data and see what insights emerge.
"When we started bringing pieces of data together, it changed the way we think dramatically," Migliori said.
UnitedHealth crunched the data and recognized that advanced features on a Medtronic insulin pump for diabetic patients seemed to decrease the number of middle-of-the-night hospitalizations for complications like hypoglycemia.
The real value of the pump, Migliori said, was linked to the value of avoiding preventable hospitalizations. Similarly, the value of a drug for a treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia became evident when UnitedHealth analyzed how well it kept patients from progressing to the next phase of the disease.
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