On Tuesday, UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division announced that it has created the first-of-its-kind healthcare cloud environment with a healthcare app store. The goal is to boost collaboration among doctors, caregivers and patients as well as enable innovation in healthcare, all of which will lead to better care for patients. The company is targeting physician offices, hospitals and health plans, and expects them to start using the cloud and the platform-agnostic app store, in droves.
The healthcare cloud (a name for which is being finalized) is now in closed beta said Optum spokesman Kyle Christensen, who added that a few Accountable Care Organizations and health systems are testing it. In June, it will be opened to a larger audience with general availability coming at the end of the year.
How will the cloud work?
It will enable video chat and texts among health professionals as well as with patients. It will also feature productivity tools that are compatible with various health IT systems to help care providers and health administrators organize information through a single interface that they can securely access from any Internet-connected device.
For instance, remote monitoring technologies can now be available in the Optum cloud where a patient who has to weigh himself daily can send that information directly from the scale and then be able to receive text messages from his doctor if the weight is not where it should be.
The healthcare cloud is also meant to encourage innovation through the development of healthcare apps. The first set of clinical apps for doctors have already been created and a broader range of developers will be able to access a software toolkit in the second half of the year.
“The Optum healthcare cloud will support widespread innovation across the health system by removing barriers to applications development and by helping healthcare professionals work together more easily to enhance patient care,” said Ted Hoy, senior vice president and general manager of cloud business platforms at Optum, in a news release. “The goal is to enable users to combine applications, data, analytics and services to their own specifications to improve patient and population health while improving efficiency and reducing costs.”
Optum’s cloud is bringing in several entities to ensure the offering — both from the cloud-computing infrastructure and the mobile medical app availability perspective. Partners include Cisco, IBM, HP as well as Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, HealthLoop and MyHealthDIRECT.