Optum forms joint venture with healthcare media group

Optum has partnered with media company Red Ventures to combine consumer healthcare news and information with online pharmacy and telehealth services.

The joint venture, RVO Health, supports UnitedHealth Group’s plan to build consumer brand awareness around its Optum healthcare services subsidiary, said Rick Kes, a healthcare partner at RSM. During UnitedHealth Group’s investor day in December, CEO Andrew Witty said the firm aims to grow beyond health insurance by making Optum the “front door” to the parent company, which also operates UnitedHealthcare, the largest U.S. health insurer.

“It’s definitely going to be another tool that United and Optum are going to push to their members to engage on their own,” Kes said. “It just furthers [the] whole consumerism-driven movement in healthcare, whether it be among providers or health plans.”

RVO Health combines Optum’s drug discount card, online pharmacy and virtual coaching platforms with Red Ventures’ suite of health and wellness websites and its provider review and scheduling platforms, according to the company’s LinkedIn page.

Red Ventures’ Healthline Media group comprises news and information sites Healthline, Medical News Today, Psych Central, Greatist and Bezzy. RVO Health also includes Healthgrades and FindCare, Red Ventures’ online rating and scheduling tools, and meal planner PlateJoy. Nearly 100 million users visit RVO Health sites monthly, according to the company’s LinkedIn page.

Red Ventures and UnitedHealth Group didn’t respond to interview requests.

UnitedHealth Group normally builds its capabilities in-house, so this partnership signals a desire to scale quickly, Kes said.

The company spent 2021 snapping up 10,000 physician practices, making it the largest U.S. employer of physicians; more than 60,000 providers work for Optum.

UnitedHealth Group also established the Optum Store, an online pharmacy that sells more than 800 discounted generic prescription drugs to cash customers. The website also offers telehealth services that connect patients to clinicians who can write prescriptions for antidepressants, contraceptives, erectile dysfunction drugs and other common medications. UnitedHealth Group added pharmacy capabilities to the Optum Store in June 2021.

Integrating the Optum Store with the Red Ventures properties will help UnitedHealth Group promote and monetize the direct-to-consumer platform, Kes said. RVO Health will also benefit from Optum’s Rally Health, a digital wellness tool that ties premium discounts to dietary, exercise and other health-related activities, he said.

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