Optum, the information and technology-enabled health services business arm of UnitedHealth, has reached a deal to acquire Atrius Health, the largest independent physician group in Massachusetts.
Steve Strongwater, M.D., president & CEO of Atrius Health, the Newton, Mass.-based 715-physician network, said in an emailed statement to Healthcare Innovation that the organization “is excited to build on our decades-long commitment in supporting our patients with high-quality care by joining Optum, positioning us to do even more to better serve patients and keep people healthy.” Strongwater added, “If approved, Atrius Health will remain committed to its same mission, vision, and values for patient care and continue to care for patients through multiple insurance plans.”
Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed, and Optum officials declined to comment when asked. The deal will still need to get regulatory approval from both state and federal regulators.
As noted in a report in the Boston Globe, Atrius explored becoming part of a larger organization in 2019, but opted to remain independent. However, like it has for many physician groups, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced these practices to think differently.
Last March, just a few weeks into the crisis, Strongwater acknowledged that patient visits had already dropped 70 percent. That led to the medical group furloughing more than 1,000 employees, and it has lost about 100 doctors over the past two years, while struggling to draw new patients, particularly during the pandemic, the Globe reported. The Physicians Foundation previously reported that 8 percent of physicians have closed up shop as a result of COVID-19, resulting in 16,000 closed practices.
For Optum, this isn’t its first foray into the medical group space. In 2018, the Minneapolis-based organization acquired independent physician group DaVita Medical Group for $4.9 billion in cash. That same year, OptumCare, the healthcare delivery arm of Optum, acquired Reliant Medical Group in Massachusetts for $28 million. Now, Optum is increasing its footprint in the state even further, adding 30 medical practice locations in eastern Massachusetts with the Atrius acquisition.
Strongwater further noted in the Globe report that Optum “will make investments in the kinds of things that will improve patient experience…And we believe it will be very helpful for the Commonwealth because they will help us continue to drive down the total cost of care.”