UnitedHealth Group enters online consumer health space

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Health insurer UnitedHealth Group has entered the electronic health record (EHR) space with myoptumhealth.com, an ad-supported web portal providing consumers with resources and tools geared toward managing personal health.

The portal marks the first insurance firm-backed portal open to all consumers, regardless of health plan or employee status, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Scott Heimes, SVP, OptumHealth Consumer Solutions, told MM&M that the portal is engaged in "numerous promotional initiatives, including ongoing, full-scale public relations efforts, and search engine marketing" to promote the site. The company is also pushing for "an aggressive migration of users from its legacy HealthAtoZ.com site over to myOptumHealth.com," said Heimes, noting that HealthAtoZ.com will eventually redirect consumers to myOptumHealth.com.

Healthline Networks Inc. developed the search engine function for UnitedHealth Group, and also powers the search tool on UnitedHealth's website, according to the WSJ.

Myoptumhealth.com provides offerings similar to other online consumer health outlets, such as WebMD, Microsoft's HealthVault and Google Health. Privacy concerns have been a primary obstacle for EHR providers. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides privacy and security standards for insurers and healthcare providers, although medical records themselves—controlled independently by consumers and media entities—are not governed by HIPAA.

In a separate announcement, UnitedHeathcare and OptumHealth were awarded a contract to administer the Empire Plan Mental Health and Substance Abuse Program, by the New York Office of the State Comptroller. The contract is effective January 1, 2009, the statement said.

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