The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally approved multinational healthcare firm UnitedHealth’s proposed £1.2bn purchase of EMIS, formerly known as Egton Medical Information Systems, following an independent investigation.
The body will now consult on the findings of its investigation before reaching a final decision.
EMIS is a supplier of data management systems to the NHS, including the electronic patient record system, which is reportedly used by the majority of NHS GPs.
This prompted the CMA to conduct an investigation to ensure competition concerns resulting from the deal did not negatively impact the health service provider.
Kirstin Baker, chair of the independent inquiry panel carrying out the investigation, 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. 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.”
A recently published NHS workforce plan suggested that ‘almost half’ of admin work could be automated, with the health service increasingly investing in digital technologies and robotics to improve patient outcomes.
Optum, which is part of the US healthcare company UnitedHealth, currently supplies software used by GPs for prescriptions, data analytics and some advisory services.
Though the two merging businesses do not supply competing services, Optum and its competitors use the data that EMIS holds and integrate their own software with EMIS’s record system to compete in other markets.
Though a Phase 1 investigation found that the merger risked reducing competition for the NHS, the issues were examined more closely in a Phase 2 probe by an independent panel. This led to the verdict that the merger would not create competition concerns.
The investigation confirmed that EMIS, as the lead supplier to NHS GPs across the UK, ‘holds a particularly strong market position’ in the supply of this type of record systems but found the combination of this position with Optum’s activities should not present competition concerns.
What’s more, the panel have provisionally found that the purchase should not enable the EMIS to restrict opportunities for or harm rivals, based on the NHS’ oversight role.
The CMA will issue its final report in the coming months, with it being due by 5 October 2023.