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Optum strikes its biggest hospital deal yet – but is it for the greater good?

An October 8 article in Healthcare Dive details Optum's latest partnership with SSM Health. Does this big dog have our best interest in mind?

We’ve said it before: Optum is getting bigger.

A subsidiary of UnitedHealthcare, Optum has inked its largest health system deal yet, Healthcare Dive reports. After another successful quarter (if you’re a shareholder, that is), Optum’s partnering with the Catholic, not-for-profit health system SSM Health on healthcare technology back-end function, including inpatient care management, revenue cycle management, and other digital needs.

The duo says they hope to provide patients with a better digital experience, and the deal will also add more than 2,000 back-end employees to Optum’s ranks.

Digital advancements and a better patient experience – what’s not to love? Optum certainly feels bullish on the sector – this isn’t the first back-end deal Optum’s landed, according to the article, inking similar contracts in California, New York and Colorado.

You might be thinking, wait, what does Optum do again? Don’t they have physician practices? Considering they’ve shaken hands with many a healthcare company, the better question may be, What don’t they do?

OptumHealth, for one, is a 50,000-plus physician network. OptumInsight is an analytics division that provides research and data to hospitals, physicians, health plans, governments, and life sciences. And then there’s OptumRx, one of the largest pharmacy benefit managers, overseeing prescriptions for 66 million Americans.

In other words, they have a big portfolio. And if the deal with SSM Health is any indication, the growth spurt isn’t over.

Look – there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being large and having scale. But our healthcare system has big problems, and UnitedHealthcare is a big player.

Optum and UnitedHealthcare have massive amounts of patient data and industry control. We marvel all the time at the company that’s able to bring in almost $56 billion in revenue in the third quarter alone. There’s a level or moral acknowledgement we’d expect to see within that role, but we just aren’t seeing any accountability from the biggest dog in the fight.

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