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Competition regulator clears £1.2bn UnitedHealth and EMIS merger

UnitedHealth EMIS
Image credit: Ground Picture / Shuttterstock

The UK competition regulator has cleared a £1.2bn deal for UnitedHealth to purchase the health tech startup EMIS.

The deal between the specialist healthcare tech and software firms was subject to a Phase 2 investigation from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over concerns that the deal would be unfair to the health data market.

Both firms offer their services to the NHS, which I increasingly seeking digital solutions to improve healthcare in the UK. The competition watchdog was initially concerned that US medtech giant UnitedHealth, in particular through its subsidiary Optum, would be able to restrict competitors access to data from EMIS’s patient record system.

EMIS is the lead supplier to NHS GPs in the UK and has been determined by the CMA as having a particularly strong market position in the supply of digital patient records.

Despite this, the CMA concluded that UnitedHealth would not be able to use EMIS’s data to gain an advantage over rivals as the NHS was deemed able to use its oversight role to prevent this strategy post-merger.

The regulator further concluded that restricting competitors’ access to EMIS’s data would not be commercially beneficial to UnitedHealth.

“The NHS increasingly relies on digital technology and data analytics to support the delivery of high-quality healthcare,” said Kirstin Baker, who chaired the inquiry.

“So, it is important to ensure that, as the main customer of these services, the NHS continues to have access to the options and innovations that new and developing technology can bring.

“We are satisfied that this deal will not reduce competition or mean that the NHS and its patients lose out.”

The acquisition was first agreed on by the firms in June 2022 and flagged by the CMA as potentially harmful in March.

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