The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has cleared UnitedHealth’s £1.2bn purchase of patient software company EMIS, after competition concerns were raised in an investigation.

Although the companies do not supply competing services to the NHS, it was initially thought that that Optum, part of UnitedHealth, could close off EMIS’s patient record system to rivals by degrading digital connections. Rivals rely on these connections to provide integrated software.

EMIS’s system is the most used electronic patient record platform by general practitioners (GPs) on the NHS, whilst Optum currently supplies GPs with prescribing software in addition to data analytics which the NHS uses for general operations.

The merger was announced by the US healthcare giant in December 2022. The CMA then placed the proposed deal into a Phase 2 investigation in March 2023 amid competition concerns.

The CMA’s investigation, despite pointing towards EMIS’ strong market position, found the deal does not raise competition concerns relating to the potential impact of competitors’ access to the data.

The CMA also found that the NHS would play an oversight role in preventing the merged business from pursuing strategies harmful to competitors.

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The greenlight will be welcomed by the NHS, which is aiming to supply the majority of health and social care foundations with electronic records by March 2025. The levelling up of digital maturity is part of the Department of Health and Social Care’s digital plan for health and social care.

Kirstin Baker, chair of the independent inquiry group carrying out the investigation, said: “The NHS increasingly relies on digital technology and data analytics to support the delivery of high-quality healthcare.

“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.”