UnitedHealth’s proposed £1.2bn purchase of GP IT company EMIS has been provisionally cleared by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after it found ‘no competition concerns’ with the deal.
The CMA’s findings are now being consulted on, with a final decision about the takeover due by 5 October.
EMIS announced last June that it had agreed to be bought by Optus UK, which is part of US-based healthcare giant UnitedHealth.
EMIS supplies the electronic patient record system used by the majority of general practices, while Optum 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.
The CMA said that while the merging businesses do not provide competing services, Optum and its competitors use the data that EMIS holds and integrate their own software with EMIS’s electronic patient record system to compete in other markets, including the supply of population health management services and medicines optimisation software.
A CMA Phase 1 investigation carried out earlier this year had also identified initial concerns that the merger ran the risk of worse outcomes for the NHS by reducing competition.
However, these initial worries have been probed in more detail in a second phase of the CMA investigation, overseen by an independent panel, and concluded that the merger does not raise competition concerns.
The investigation confirmed that the combination of EMIS’ strong market position with Optum’s activities ‘should not present competition concerns’.
Kirstin Baker, chair of the independent inquiry panel, said that digital technology and data analytics ‘play an increasingly important role in supporting high-quality healthcare in the NHS’, so it was important to investigate the deal thoroughly.
She added: ‘We want to ensure the NHS continues to benefit from innovation and efficiencies brought about by technology services competing for its business.
‘After carefully considering a broad range of evidence, we have provisionally found that this deal is not expected to harm competition or adversely affect patients.’
The CMA’s consultation is open until 1 September.