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A new NHS healthcare deal looking to merge health tech among data specialists could result in lower quality, more expensive software in the NHS

EMIS, a large supplier of data management systems to the NHS, is to be bought by UnitedHealth in a £1.2 billion deal, but the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) finds this NHS healthcare deal could have poor outcomes for both health and patients.

UnitedHealth is widely recognised in the US as a supplier of healthcare insurance and operates in the UK as Optum Health Solutions Ltd.

To address the concerns identified, UnitedHealth and EMIS will go over legally binding proposals to the CMA – with room for the CMA to consider its own concerns – until reaching the next stage of implementation.

Why could this be a bad healthcare deal for the NHS?

As part of its Phase 1 investigation, the CMA analysed these NHS services, and how UnitedHealth’s purchase of EMIS may impact competition.

Developing and supplying digital and data analytics products to the NHS brings substantial competition to the UK, which could be significantly reduced in the Population Health Management and medicines optimisation software markets – enabling the safe and effective use of medicines.

Optum, which is part of UnitedHealth, is known for providing software used by GPs within the NHS for prescribing medication to patients and relies on digital connections to the data that EMIS holds, and integrations with EMIS’s electronic patient record system.

This NHS healthcare deal could impact services provided by Optum’s competitors, as it includes supplying the electronic patient record system used by the majority of NHS GPs in the UK.

“This deal could see the NHS lose out on the benefits of competition”

Optum could choose to limit these connections – but the CMA believes this could unfairly undermine competing businesses.

The NHS, as the customer of these products, could then face fewer options, and higher prices for lower-quality offerings.

The NHS is looking for more digital solutions to improve the delivery of healthcare

Sorcha O’Carroll, Senior Mergers Director at the CMA, said: “The NHS and the millions of patients under its care depend on critical behind-the-scenes technology to ensure people are looked after and receive the treatment needed to get better.

“This deal could see the NHS lose out on the benefits of competition, including innovation in these products and services and getting better value for money. UnitedHealth has the opportunity to address our concerns, otherwise, it will progress to a more in-depth investigation.”


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