UnitedHealth Group unit paying $1.5 billion for UK technology company

A division of UnitedHealth Group is paying $1.5 billion to acquire a health technology firm that will deepen the company’s business with the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom.

EMIS Group PLC, the U.K.-based company being acquired, disclosed the sale in a regulatory filing on Friday. Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, which operates the largest health insurer in the United States, declined to comment.

EMIS makes health care software and systems used in primary care, emergency departments and pharmacies at the community and hospital level. The sale still requires court approval.

“Optum UK is focused on helping the NHS work better for clinicians and patients, and believes that this combination with EMIS will bring ever more advanced technology solutions and capabilities to the NHS and general practitioners to improve patient care,” Rob Sergeant, the chief executive officer of Optum UK, said in a statement.

The NHS is the publicly funded health care system in England.

For nearly 20 years, UnitedHealth’s division for health services called Optum has provided software and consulting, the filing states, for population health management of more than 45 million people in the U.K.

Simon Stevens, who was an influential UnitedHealth Group executive up until 2013, ran the NHS for a seven-year period that ended last summer.

The acquisition of EMIS would expand UnitedHealth’s business outside the U.S.

In 2012, UnitedHealth announced plans to spend $4.9 billion for a majority stake in Amil Participacoes, a large insurer and health care provider in Brazil. Five years later, the company announced the $2.8 billion acquisition of Empresas Banmédica, a health care provider and insurer operating in Chile, Colombia and Peru.

By 2018, the company was expecting about $11 billion in revenue from the South American operations.

The latest deal involves Optum UK, a division that works in population health management and medication optimization, according to the regulatory filing Friday. The goal is to improve care and clinical outcomes, the filing states, while boosting efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Based in Leeds, England, EMIS employs about 1,400 people and posted about $206 million in revenue during 2021, according to the regulatory filing.

The combination with Optum is meant to help “NHS clinicians unlock data-led and digital capabilities to better assess risk in populations and target interventions with the goal of improving patient outcomes — and to help clinician spend more time with patients,” the filing states.

EMIS is expected to operate as a stand-alone operating unit in the U.K. Its headquarters will remain in Leeds. The companies don’t anticipate any material change in overall headcount in the near term.

“We believe this combination will have the resources and expertise to enable us to better support the NHS and clinicians through technology innovations,” Andy Thorburn, the chief executive at EMIS, said in a statement.

With divisions in pharmacy benefits management, direct patient care and health care IT, Optum has been at the center of several recent UnitedHealth Group acquisitions.

In January 2021, UnitedHealth announced a $13 billion deal to acquire Change Healthcare, a Tennessee-based company with technology for processing claims. The acquisition is being challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice.

UnitedHealth announced in March a deal worth about $6 billion to acquire a Louisiana-based home care company called LHC Group. And United is paying $236 million for a large medical group in Massachusetts.

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