UnitedHealth Group has acquired Cambridge, Massachusetts-based patient social networking site PatientsLikeMe a few months after regulators forced its major Chinese investor iCarbonX to divest from the company over concerns about foreign control of user data.
In an email sent to users, PatientsLikeMe wrote that as of June 19, the company was joining the research and development arm of UnitedHealth Group.
The company described the division as a “independent unit” established to “invest in research that advanced improvements and innovation in healthcare.” PateintsLikeMe added in the email that there will be no adjustments to the way patient data will be managed.
While some commentators hailed the sale as a savior of a company doing valuable work, a number of PatientsLikeMe users have asserted they will delete their accounts in response to the new association with the country’s largest insurer.
Patients uploading health data so they can see other people’s side effects and opt into research..
And that company & it’s data has been bought by a health insurance company. One that kills people. What could go wrong? https://t.co/L95yidlkk3
— Cakelin (@thecakelin) June 24, 2019
The beauty of @patientslikeme was that it didn’t have “big brother” watching. It now seems as though it does.
Will you still use? https://t.co/cyIt34Pu3p
— Dr. Ted Vickey (@tedvickey) June 24, 2019
News of the sale was originally reported by Mobihealthnews.
PatientsLikeMe was founded in 2006 to connect patients with the same disease or condition, provide them a platform to share their experiences and treatments and generate real-world patient data in the process. The company aggregates and sells the data to healthcare companies for revenue.
PatientsLikeMe was in a haste to find a buyer after regulators at the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), forced its majority shareholder Shenzhen, China-based iCarbonX to divest their holdings in the startup.
The Chinese genomics company took a stake in the company as part of a $100 million deal in 2017 that was meant to combine the social network’s patient data with the bioinformatics expertise of iCarbonX.
Photo: designer491, Getty Images