How innovation springs across the globe at Optum

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How innovation springs across the globe at Optum, part of UnitedHealth Group

Friday, May 31, 2019

At Optum, innovation isn’t restricted to a team, business or location. Innovation is in our DNA and we invent in service of a future where health care serves everyone more fairly, productively and consistently. We put a series of questions to our colleagues globally, about how they and their teams create an impact with serial innovation. Hear what they have to say.

Sumit U. – Sr. Manager Software Engineering, India
Errol D. – Applications Development Manager, the Philippines
Mike (The Mechanic) H. - Director of Business Development, the US

How do you describe your job to your friends and family?

Mike: I generally describe my job as an opportunity to understand the complexities of health care and to help manage health care costs through new ideas, partners, concepts and innovation.

Errol: I usually tell my wife and daughters that my work is something innovative that actually helps people since I work in health care. Applications that I create really make an impact on any individual that uses these applications.

Sumit: My job at Optum is to manage an advanced technology team, which works for Behavioral Health, one of the less spoken, but significant health issues in the US.


How long have you been with Optum and what has your journey here looked like?

Mike: I have been at Optum for approximately (4) years in the Innovation Research and Development (IRD) Team and have been at UnitedHealth Group for (12) years. I started as a leader for UnitedHealthcare (UHC), part of the UnitedHealth Group family of businesses, during the Pacific Care Acquisition, leading Billing, Eligibility and Customer Service in the West, and then joined UHC National Accounts West as an account executive handling large national clients. Today I lead business engagement for Optum Technology on behalf of IRD.

Errol: I have been with Optum for almost 5 years and 8 months. The majority of my career in Optum has been about developing health care related applications. My interest in innovation also drove me to try and find ways to help improve and automate some applications used by other teams. Due to this, I was chosen as the Innovation Lead for the technology group in the Philippines.

Sumit: I have been a proud member of the UnitedHealth Group family for over 10 years now & this journey has been nothing but an exciting and rewarding experience.



At Optum, how is innovation at the forefront of the work we are doing?

Mike: Every day and in every way our health care system is changing. Right now the big bogey is around cost and quality. We have to embrace new technology in order to make things work the way they should. Some examples are Chatbots, Virtual Assistants, and Artificial Intelligence that know why a member needs help and how to quickly get them that help. Our customers, partners and teams that we serve look to us to lead and develop better methods around how we can reduce costs and provide better quality.

Errol: We are always pushing to automate as many processes as possible and are not restricted to automating in just our department. We have reached out to several teams including our teams under the Shared Services Division to see what kind of help they need in automating their processes.

Sumit: Innovation is a core value in Optum and I can proudly say I have experienced it first hand, where I have innovated over 20 tools. In Optum, you can sign up to be an innovator, create an idea, develop it & experience the enterprise wide innovation events too.



What are some of the innovative projects that you and your teams are working on that you are able to share?

Mike: Where do I start? We have things going on with Amazon Alexa that will help members navigate on their own. A new pilot that uses a Kiosk to check members and patients to streamline process and add convenience to both members and the physician’s office. We are currently scaling a communications platform that allows our members and their families with special needs to be connected continuously without interruption to help with care and provider needs. So many more, but those are a few off the top of my head.

Errol: Our innovation projects range from automating simple excel programs to creating whole applications for the shared services teams that can be utilized by everybody in the company for easier access to their services. Some of these projects are related from transportation services, locker room services to Talent Acquisition service automations.

Sumit: Two of the innovation items that I can talk about are, a tool that helps teams to avert war rooms (production issues that can impact application), and another one that can help teams address the incidents within Service Level Agreement to ensure a better customer experience. Both these tools are now used by over 250+ applications in Optum.



What are your passions outside of work and how do they contribute to your innovation role at UnitedHealth Group?

Mike: My passions outside of work are learning about new innovation and connecting with outsiders to think about how we can do better as a health care company. I also enjoy jumping on the Harley and running all over the country to see friends and attend bike events. So much to do and so little time to accomplish all of this, but I am giving it a good try.

Errol: My passion is learning new technology and one of the best ways to learn is by actual work implementation. I typically use these new learnings through most of the work that I have with these innovation projects. Learning new technology by doing innovation projects, two birds with one stone if you will!

Sumit: As a tech savvy person, I am very enthusiastic in attending a lot of technology conferences, reading tech articles and watching a lot of technology shows. Apart from keeping me updated on new technologies around the world, these definitely keep my brain ticking for new ideas that I can implement at work.



How does your innovative work have an impact on the people in the communities we serve?

Mike: The work we do helps our members better navigate the health system and remove barriers to getting the best health care at a lower cost. There is no shortage to helping those we help today with tools and tech that will demystify the cloud of health care.

Sumit: Any innovation that we work on, has a significant impact on a set of population that needs help, but isn’t aware. Our innovation equips them with the right tools to help and manage their conditions like Depression, Anxiety, Stress, Alzheimer’s, etc. After all, it is a person’s behavioral health which impacts emotional, psychological and social well-being.

For more information about Innovation at UnitedHealth Group, please visit:

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