UnitedHealth Group, the country’s largest health insurer, announced last month that it is purchasing PatientsLikeMe, a healthcare technology firm. Following the acquisition, the startup will become part of UnitedHealth Group’s independent research arm. The news of the acquisition comes months after it was made public that the Trump administration was forcing the health tech startup to find a new majority investor over concerns that its biggest investor was Chinese.
Prior to UnitedHealth Group’s purchase, Chinese health data and genomics firm iCarbonX held a majority stake in PatientsLikeMe. The tech startup gained the attention of the Trump administration’s Committee on Foreign Investment when it raised $100 million and sold majority interest to the Chinese firm in 2017.
PatientsLikeMe offers an online portal that allows healthcare consumers to connect with other patients facing similar health concerns. Members are able to track and share their symptoms and treatment experiences, participate in research and connect socially with those in similar situations.
In a statement, UnitedHealth Group said that “UnitedHealth Group and PatientsLikeMe are committed to using technology and innovation to help people live healthier lives and help make the health system work better for everyone…we look forward to collaborating on patient-first research and building upon the supportive communities patients have come to rely on.”
An e-mail sent to members of PatientsLikeMe’s DigitalMe study confirmed that the acquisition was finalized on June 19. The message from PatientsLikeMe CEO Jamie Heywood read in part: "As always, we are committed to using your data for good, protecting your data, and advancing our understanding of diseases through your partnerships. There are not changes to the PatientsLikeMe name or your PatientsLikeMe membership. Our community and site remain a place where you can connect, track, and share with others as you've always done."
Heywood emphasized that PatientsLikeMe members’ identifiable personal data and private messages with other members will not be given to research partners and that there will be no charges to who has access to posts on PatientsLikeMe’s social platform.
The specific terms of the deal have not been reported.