OptumLabs was co-founded by Optum Inc. and Mayo Clinic in late 2012. Through OptumLabs, the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery is delving into data from more than 150 million patients to find optimal treatments for conditions in a given setting, understand variations in care, and examine the effectiveness of patient care programs and approaches.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, OptumLabs is the health care industry's first open collaborative research and innovation center. It provides a research environment — including technology, tools, collaboration space and operating processes — and a translation network to assist in translating knowledge to changes in practice and policy.

It provides a consolidated source of de-identified data, linked from multiple sources: more than 131 million lives of claims data, 46.1 million lives of clinical data and 41.8 million lives of consumer data, and the ability to link these data sources together. All data is kept in a secure environment and, in accordance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, no personally identifiable information is shared.

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

  • Clinical and research expertise to guide research agendas 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

This collaboration is led by the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.


Mayo Clinic researchers use the OptumLabs data warehouse to investigate a wide range of health care concerns, including:

  • Over- and under-use of tests and medications, including identifying resultant medical complications and burdens to individuals and the health care system at large
  • Comparative effectiveness of different medications, types of surgery or other therapeutic interventions
  • Incidence and outcomes of diseases and conditions
  • Preference and prevalence of different treatments for a particular disease or condition
  • Effects of adherence to or change of therapy to long-term patient outcomes

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.


Since co-founding OptumLabs, Mayo Clinic researchers have published and presented research findings in a variety of national and international venues.

The link below returns citations from PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine. PubMed is composed of references and abstracts from Medline, life science journals and online books. It includes publications authored by members of the OptumLabs collaborative team.

See publications from the OptumLabs collaboration in the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.


Jayant A. Talwalkar, M.D.

Nilay D. Shah, Ph.D.