This week, OptumHealth announced an exclusive 3 year agreement with the Australian company Brain Resource. OptumHealth will be embedding the Brain Resource platform into their overall Behavioral Solutions program. The recently published Sharp Brains Report puts the value of the deal at $18M.
Brain Resource will provide a clinical decision support (CDS) platform that begins with a 40 minute Web-based assessment questionnaire. The profile an assessment creates is compared to that of “thousands of others” in the Brain Resource database (this is the competitive differentiator that Brain Resource offers), with subsequent scoring and matching to most effective treatment options for that individual based on the experience of others.
While the initial roll-out of Brain Resource by OptumHealth is targeting clinicians, it does not take to much imagination to see this assessment, or some subset thereof show-up in the OptumHealth PHR, HealthAtoZ, as just one more health risk assessment (HRA) for one to take.
As it is fairly well-known that many chronic diseases have a high comorbidity factor with mental health, OptumHealth’s partnership with Brain Resource, and its success (ro lack thereof) will be an interesting one to follow.
And while I applaud this effort, it also raises some pretty scary privacy concerns.
There is still a very large stigma regarding mental health that far exceeds that for standard chronic diseases such as diabetes or hypertension. Only today did Congress finally reach agreement on a mental health parity bill after some 10 years of deliberations! WHich all leads to such questions as:
- How will these assessments be used beyond the confines of the clinician’s office?
- What access will OptumHealth have to the data?
- Will they be able to see each assessment at the patient level or wil it be aggregated and de-identified?
- And what about the employers who have OptumHealth’s parent, United Health Group as an insurer for their employees? Will employers have access to this data, particularly if they start embedding it within HealthAtoZ?
The more I think about this partnership, the less comfortable I am with it. It is one thing if a provider adopts the Brain Resource platform, say an institution like McLean’s to assist with patient assessments and treatment options. It is quite another to have an insurer with their hands on the throttle. I just do not believe we, as a society, are there yet to handle something like this despite what may be very honorable intentions on the part of OptumHealth.
OptumHealth would be wise to spend more time addressing the concerns mentioned above before going much further.