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US firm given initial go-ahead to buy EMIS in £1.2bn deal

US firm given initial go-ahead to buy EMIS in £1.2bn deal

A US healthcare company has been given provisional approval to buy leading GP IT-supplier EMIS in a £1.2bn deal. 

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced last week that the merger does not ‘raise competition concerns’ and is now consulting on its provisional findings. 

UnitedHealth functions as Optum in the UK and provides medicines optimisation software to GPs as well as population health management for the NHS.

While the two companies are not competitors, Optum and similar firms currently use data from EMIS in order to integrate their own software with EMIS’s electronic patient record (EPR) system. 

As such, the CMA has investigated whether a merger would reduce competition in the market, and the authority’s latest findings show that the takeover ‘should not present competition concerns’.

Kirstin Baker, chair of the independent inquiry panel carrying out the investigation at the CMA, said they have provisionally found the deal will not ‘harm competition or adversely affect patients’. 

She said: ‘Digital technology and data analytics play an increasingly important role in supporting high quality healthcare in the NHS and so it’s important we investigate this deal thoroughly.

‘We want to ensure the NHS continues to benefit from innovation and efficiencies brought about by technology services competing for its business.’

An initial investigation in January found that the merger could result in a ‘substantial lessening of competition’ within the UK market, and as such it was referred for a second round of investigation which has just ended. 

During this first phase, the CMA received ‘a large number of concerns’ about the impact of the merger, including from NHS Digital. 

Some of these concerns suggested the takeover could allow Optum to foreclose its competitors ‘who rely on data from, or integration with, EMIS Web’.

However, the most recent investigation found that the merged business would lack either the ability or incentive to foreclose competitors. 

The final decision is expected in October following a consultation which will run until early September. 

EMIS has received criticism in recent months with GPs reporting numerous technical issues and outages, including a ‘significant disruption’ affecting thousands of GP practices in May. 

Pulse’s recent analysis of frequent IT faults looked at the effects on patient safety and GP workload.