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Wyatt Decker, MD, MBA, joined OptumHealth as CEO in 2019 after serving as Chief Medical Information Officer for Mayo Clinic and CEO of Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and teaching as a Professor of Emergency Medicine at Mayo’s College of Medicine.

At Optum, he leads a range of platforms spanning care and ambulatory delivery, behavioral health, complex care, population health and consumer offerings — placing him in a unique position to help shape the future of health care.

Health Evolution interviewed Decker about Optum’s plans for the near future, how the enterprise is positioning itself for the next generation of health care, supporting physicians and patients alike, the need for health care to transform itself and more.

What should health care consumers and prospective clients expect of Optum in the next 18 months? And beyond that, the next two to three years?
In a nutshell, we’re reimagining and asking what would a consumer want that next generation health system to look like? We’re creating what is hopefully an informed vision of what people want. In my career, I spent 22 years as a practicing emergency physician so I’ve taken care of literally thousands of people who were in emergency departments because they couldn’t get care after their prescriptions ran out and they didn’t know how to refill them or how to get them paid for. Other people came to the ER because they did not know where else to go for medical care or how to navigate the system. I’ve seen firsthand the impact of what I would say is the 1.0 version of America’s fee-for-service, fragmented, inefficient health care system. Our aim is to reinvent that system around what people want and what most people want is to stay healthy and to have a health care system that supports them with a doctor and a team that wants the best outcomes, a team that actually reaches out to them, maybe when it’s time for appropriate screenings to help prevent cancer or other serious diseases, cardiovascular disease, or to diagnose it early and intervene early. That’s the system we’re building at Optum, and I’m very excited, but also humbled, to be able to play a small part in that.

Building on that future, how is Optum positioning itself to deliver on the promise of improving the health care system for everyone to achieve the vision you just outlined?
We have a few tenets around this notion of building a modern, high performing health care system. One is bringing technology and people together in new and differentiated ways. We place the patient at the center of everything we do. They do not want to take an entire day off from work when they just have a half-hour appointment. How do we leverage virtual care in a way that is actually convenient for patients and providers? Virtual care has a couple of Achilles heels. One is if I’m using virtual care, I want to see my trusted provider, not just any provider that I don’t know and they don’t know me. Connecting people virtually with their own provider is critical. Another element of virtual care is that it not infrequently butts up against the limits of what you can do medically on a video camera. There’s a lot you can’t do, including a physical examination, drawing blood, x-rays and on down the list. We are blurring the boundaries of virtual and physical. The third piece is behavioral health, so that those can all come together. Imagine if someone is in a virtual appointment with their doctor or a member of her team, and then they need to have something done and we can bring that patient in or refer the person to an urgent care center that can draw blood if that’s convenient. We can ask if the patient would like an appointment in two hours to get blood drawn? Our vision is to make health care much more personal, much more consumer friendly and much more focused on in-home and lower cost environments. We’re going to emphasize that experience, and when we do it, that experience is going to be less in the hospital and more in alternative sites of care, urgent care centers, primary care offices, and your own home.