UnitedHealth Group and Optum See Growth of In-Home Care Trend


As the health insurance ecosystem deals with the May ending of COVID emergency measures that will redetermine coverage for millions, UnitedHealthcare and its Optum unit are seeing growth, with particular strength in its home health offerings.

On its first-quarter 2023 earnings call Friday (April 14) UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty said, “Year to date, United Healthcare increased the number of people served in the U.S. by 1.2 million, about half of this total within our commercial offerings. At Optum Health we’re now serving nearly 700,000 More patients under fully accountable value-based arrangements compared to just December 2022.”

A focus on the value-based care provided by Optum featured prominently in Q1 results and in future plans for the healthcare giant as a byproduct of the pandemic is more patients receiving care in-home, which continues driving innovation and expansion of that sector.

Witty added that “this year we expect to serve more than four million patients in fully accountable value-based care arrangements through Optum, about double where we were at the end of 2021. These patients will be members of UnitedHealthcare benefit plans or one of the many other plans served by Optum.”

UnitedHealth Group President and COO Dirk McMahon went into deeper detail on the company’s ongoing pivot to a greater mix of at-home health services, saying, “Nearly all the patients we’ll add this year in fully accountable value-based relationships will have access to support through our home-based platform. Consumers value and benefit from services delivered in the home and we’ve expanded our capabilities to serve that need.”

McMahon highlighted key capabilities United and Optum are pursuing in home-based care, including in-home patient assessments which are clinical visits designed to identify care needs and help patients with other physical and social needs.

“This year, we expect to make more than 2.5 million visits to patients’ homes, and we continue to expand the scope of the clinical services offered in that setting,” he said.

A Redoubled Focus on At-Home Healthcare

The merger of Optum with in-home care delivery provider LHC Group completed in February extends UnitedHealthcare’s reach and capabilities in home-based care delivery, with McMahon noting, “Our recent combination with LHC Group expands in-home capabilities. LHC provides high-quality compassionate home health, hospice, and post-acute care services with over 12 million patient encounters each year. We will learn from and build upon LHC’s capabilities, expanding the scope and acuity of the care we can provide in a patient’s home.”

CFO John Rex said, “Physician office activity continues to trend toward historic levels, while a few categories such as pediatrics remain lower. Emergency room visits remain modestly lower than historical levels, with consumers seemingly more comfortable with virtual and walk-in care.”

That level of comfort with virtual and walk-in care comes from three years of consumers learning new behaviors on accessing care, as Amazon, Walmart and other major retailers continue to build on that activity by expanding their own retail clinic networks.

As PYMNTS reported, Amazon Clinic Chief Medical Officer and General Manager Dr. Nworah Ayogu said during the recent CNBC Healthy Returns 2023 Summit that this is where it’s heading with its retail offerings, as are others from Walmart to CVS and beyond.

“You choose a condition that you have. You can choose the telehealth provider, you can choose the provider group, so it’s injecting choice into the experience so you can choose all the factors that matter to you,” Ayogu said at the time. “Then you can message back and forth to the doctor to rapidly get the care that you need,” keeping more patients out of ERs and hospitals, aided by digital monitoring tech that’s making it all reliable and scalable.