UnitedHealthcare launches Clinical Program Innovation team

Employers, consumers and providers are increasingly being asked to make sense of a steady stream of digital health solutions. These solutions generally aim to support patients in their self-management of a variety of complex conditions, offer a personalized approach to improving health and reduce the total cost of care. But it is not always apparent how successful these solutions are in meeting those goals. 

That is why UnitedHealthcare has launched its Clinical Program Innovation team, which is charged with analyzing digital health solutions in high-priority clinical areas such as:

  • behavioral health
  • musculoskeletal pain
  • metabolic health, which is the body’s ability to process food and has been linked to diseases such as diabetes

The team then offers data-based assessments of program results. The goal is to help support and inform future decisions made about programs offered to employers, consumers and providers.

For example, the Clinical Program Innovation team is currently evaluating data from several digitally supported diabetes management solutions to assess the effectiveness of each program in a number of areas, including:

  • member engagement
  • member experience
  • health outcomes
  • cost of care

The goal is to determine which solutions work better for which consumers.

Similar reviews of digitally supported condition management and care coordination programs are under development in other clinical areas, including musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal diseases.

The Clinical Program Innovation team also is developing methods to review and analyze data from programs involving innovative clinical care models. This includes data concerning the effectiveness of integrated medical and behavioral primary care, as well as provider-centric care coordination through electronic consults with specialists — in close collaboration with a national medical organization.

Drawing on the extensive clinical data analytics capabilities within UnitedHealthcare and applying a pragmatic approach to program evaluation, the goal is to help members live healthier lives. A clinical program evaluation team will support the effort with rigorous program deployment planning and evaluation of the program effect.

“The Clinical Program Innovation team will apply real-world evidence to design high performing programs for our providers and members,” said Dr. Anne Docimo, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare.

Meet the leaders of the UnitedHealthcare Clinical Program Innovation team:

Dr. Nancy Morden is a seasoned expert in health care data and analytics who leads UnitedHealthcare’s departments of Clinical Program Review, Analytics, Evaluation and Innovation. She joined UnitedHealthcare in 2020 and has extensive experience developing and evaluating clinical programs. Her past work, focusing on unwarranted care variation and low value care, has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA.

Jacob Van Elswyk, who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, leads the Clinical Program Innovation team and has worked for UnitedHealth Group for 15 years. Previous roles have focused on clinical strategy and program development, clinical performance improvement consulting and provider partnerships. Prior to joining UnitedHealth Group, Jacob was a practicing physical therapist.

Henry (Joe) Henk, PhD, leads the Clinical Program Evaluation team and is responsible for pragmatic program design and impact evaluation of dozens of pilots and programs. Prior to this role, Joe served as vice president of research and principal scientist at OptumLabs, directing the OptumLabs Cancer Research Program. Previous roles include lead data analytics expert, principal consultant and head of Optum Insights’ Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR) unit, as well as eight years as a statistician for a nonprofit research organization and for the Veterans Administration. 

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