The Competition and Markets Authority has given the go-ahead to UnitedHealth’s £1.2bn acquisition of Leeds-based EMIS.
Last month the regulator provisionally cleared the move, having previously expressed concerns about its potential impact on NHS services.
It’s now completed its full investigation and stated that the transaction “does not raise competition concerns.”
“The NHS increasingly relies on digital technology and data analytics to support the delivery of high-quality healthcare. So, it is important to ensure that, as the main customer of these services, the NHS continues to have access to the options and innovations that new and developing technology can bring,” explained Kirstin Baker, Chair of the independent inquiry group carrying out the investigation.
“Following a thorough investigation, careful consideration of a broad range of evidence and consultation with a variety of stakeholders, we are satisfied that this deal will not reduce competition or mean that the NHS and its patients lose out.”
EMIS supplies data management systems to the NHS, including the electronic patient record system used by most NHS GPs in the UK.
Optum, part of the US healthcare giant UnitedHealth, currently supplies software used by GPs when prescribing medicines, as well as data analytics and advisory services that the NHS uses to help improve overall healthcare and health service provision.
It was this that initially raised concerns, because the CMA feared that it would allow Optum to limit its competitors’ access to the data held within EMIS’s patient record system or to degrade the digital connections to this system, which rivals rely on to provide integrated software.
In the supply of data analytics and advisory services for Population Health Management, the CMA found that the merged business would not, in practice, be able to use the data that EMIS holds to harm the competitiveness of rivals, mainly because the NHS could use its oversight role to prevent this from happening.
In the supply of medicines optimisation software, the CMA found that a strategy that involved restricting access to EMIS’s electronic patient record system “would not be commercially beneficial to the merged business,” with any possible gains being limited and capable of being reduced through intervention by the NHS.