UnitedHealth Group reports revenue growth in Q3, looks ahead to digitizing health records for patients, providers

United Healthcare finished Q3 2018 with 12 percent year-over-year revenue growth.
By Laura Lovett
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UnitedHealth Group finished the third quarter strong, reporting a 12 percent year-over-year revenue growth totalling $56.6 billion. This finish prompted the company to raise its 2018 net earnings outlook to approximately $12.10 per share, up from the $11.80 to $12.05 range. 

CEO David Wichmann highlighted the company’s use of information, technology and clinical insights as reasons for the success. 

During the call he pointed out consumer-facing services like its on-demand healthcare and Colorado Doctors Plan offerings helped contribute to the company’s earnings. In particular he went on to discuss the digital health platform Rally, which was  and helps users manage their health plans by providing tools to help them understand upfront health costs or schedule appointments. 

The call also revealed that the company is starting to look at digital health records and how to present them to both patients and providers, and is looking at ways the digital tool might assist in this endeavor.

“We would use the Rally [tool] — which as indicated now has 20 million registered users — to help provide individuals in a way which they could comprehend a tool, if you will, not only outlining their individual health record but also giving them next-best action detail. That’s what I mean by when I say it’s deeply personalized, it’s organized around them, not based upon generic criteria,” Wichmann said, according to a transcription of the call . “It also assess to what extent that ... they’ve been served by the health system broadly and whether or not there’s been any gaps in care that have been left behind.”

But if the company does implement a new strategy technology will look different for providers than patients.

“Our visions are also to take that to care providers, to provide them with similar information but in a format that looks a little bit more like their EHR. And again, would include next-best action as well, and so that would be provided to the physician and the workflow of the physician’s office," Wichmann said. "You might imagine what that could ultimately lead to in terms of continuing to develop a transaction flow between the physician and us, and the consumer and us, [and] as us of being the custodian to try to drive better health outcomes for people but also ensure that the highest level of quality is adhered to — quality defined by evidence-based practices and then also containing costs and eventually to [prompting] the health system around responding to those deeply personal circumstances and situations.”

Why it matters

Linking health records in the US is notoriously difficult. In  to incentivize providers that went to electronic records. The adoption rate of EHRs by American providers skyrocketed during this time period — from only 9 percent of hospitals having the systems to 80 percent in 2013 — in the rush to create these systems, hospitals went to different EHR vendors, and those vendors didn't take the time to come to a consensus about storing and sharing data in standardized ways.

As of now there is no single agreed upon solution for the interoperability issue. But some are discussing giving patients more control over their records as a start. 

What's the trend

While the details are scarce about what exactly UnitedHealth Group is proposing, personal health records are certainly on the rise. In the spring, Apple launched its health records feature, which gives consumers the ability to store their records on their iPhone. Currently the feature is available through select providers. 

Meanwhile, some personal health records are specializing. RDMD is a personal health record startup that plans to use the records to help accelerate clinical research of rare diseases. 

On the record

“These results reflect our businesses delivering increased value at an accelerating pace to society and the millions of people we serve — one person at a time,” Wichmann said in a statement.