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Atul Gawande's company looking to try new products on employees, trial testimony shows

Plans are for the 1.2 million employees of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, with no current intent to sell to broader market.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

The trial to stop a former Optum employee from working for the healthcare venture formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, has shed light on what the new enterprise intends to do this year.

In Massachusetts District Court, David W. Smith, former Optum vice president of Product/Corporate Strategy, said the new company isn't looking to compete against UnitedHealth Group's business services arm, Optum, according to The Wall Street Journal.

All indications are that the Boston-based nonprofit wants to change the way healthcare is delivered to the three company's 1.2 million employees. There is yet no intention to sell products to the broader market.

The venture's COO Jack Stoddard said the company is using data, analytics, and expertise to combine products from third-party vendors - and that potentially includes Optum, the WSJ report said. If viable solutions do not exist in the market, the company may consider building them, or having vendors create them.

The venture is expected to begin 'deploying tests' through partnerships this year by taking small groups of employees from the three companies and offering them products bought from existing healthcare companies, according to STAT.

Stoddard declined to guarantee that the company would not compete with Optum. It wasn't in the plans but he wouldn't want to box the company in, the report said.


The new company Optum called "ABC" in court filings is viewed as a major disruptor in the healthcare industry, but little has been released about its intentions, either by the founding companies or CEO Atul Gawande, who took over in July.

Optum considers ABC a competitor and believes Smith can't help but use his knowledge on Optum's strategy and trade secrets in his new role. Optum sued to get a temporary restraining order to stop Smith from working for ABC, saying he was breaking his non-compete clause.

One threat may be that Optum, which counts every major payer as a customer, also currently has Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase as clients.


U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf heard testimony Wednesday and Thursday.

In court records, ABC indicated that Optum was confusing the nonprofit Amazon venture to the online company.

Amazon on Tuesday confirmed it has launched a project to mine data from electronic medical records, according to CNBC. The company introduced Amazon Comprehend Medical, to allow developers to process unstructured medical text and identify information such as patient diagnosis, treatments, dosages and symptoms.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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