Optum Labs Research Alliance


I'm Nilay Shah and I'm a health services researcher in the Division of Health Care Policy and Research ... and the associate scientific director for Optum Labs in the Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.

Optum Labs is a research and development center with a focus on collaboration, innovation … with the ultimate goal of improving patient care. Data, I think, provides us a lot of insight, but really where we are headed right now increasingly, over the last decade there's been this interest of big data – which has really piqued maybe in the last two to three years. The big data discussions started primarily with genomic data. But from the delivery side, there's a ton of big data examples that exist. So there are a number of aspects to this.

One is bringing a lot of different data together. Historically, the payer data – so the claims data, and what the payers see – resides in one space. What the providers see resides in the electronic medical records and other spaces. And really the goal here is to bring it together to provide greater insight.

Benefactor support for understanding health care delivery is critical. You know, at the national level, there's a lot of money for basic science through the National Institutes of Health and a variety of other forums. There isn't the same level of support in how we deliver care.

So one of the ways that benefactor funding helps us is for us to understand what works and what doesn't, so that it improves the efficiency of health care ... and improves the outcomes for patients. And then secondarily, it helps us then disseminate the findings and have it implemented – even learn about implementing these different programs, so they can successfully achieve the same results.

So I think those are the key benefits of having benefactor funding. Because without that, for some of these things, there aren't other sources of funding. And this will really help imrpove health care deliver at Mayo Clinic and hopefully, beyond that.

Delving into data from 149 million patients, Mayo Clinic researchers are seeking answers to questions that will have immediate impacts on quality, safety and costs of patient care.

This treasure trove of patient data is available through Optum Labs, a research alliance between Optum, a technology and health services business, and Mayo Clinic. Optum brings innovative analytical tools and data on 149 million UnitedHealth Group patients, including claims, laboratory values and demographic information. Mayo Clinic brings clinical data on roughly 5 million patients and patient-focused research expertise.

Launched in January 2013, Optum Labs was created to facilitate combining information and ideas to improve the delivery and quality of care. All data is kept in a secure environment and, in accordance with HIPAA regulations, no personally identifiable information is being shared.

While researchers and analysts access data in Rochester, Optum Labs, based in Cambridge, Mass., will eventually have a staff there of about 60 people.  In addition to Mayo-initiated research, Optum is pursuing its own studies.  

As a co-founder, Mayo Clinic contributes several key attributes to the success of Optum Labs, including:

  • Clinical and research expertise to guide research agenda and interpret comparative effectiveness results
  • De-identified clinical data across a broad array of disease sets
  • Pathways and protocols that represent best clinical practices tested and standardized at Mayo

With the combined insights of Optum, Mayo and other partners, Optum Labs supports patient care in many areas, such as:

  • Finding optimal treatments for conditions in a given setting
  • Understanding variations in care
  • Examining the effectiveness of patient care programs and approaches