UnitedHealth Group buys majority stake in Audax Health

By Jonah Comstock
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audax health zenseyOptum, a division of the UnitedHealth Group, has purchased a majority stake in Audax Health Solutions in a deal "which included cash, options, preferred stock, and significant working capital," according to Audax.

Around the same time, Audax filed a $29 million funding raise with the SEC. It's likely that Optum's investment was contained within that round. UPDATE: Audax has told MobiHealthNews that Optum was not an investor in that round.

Contrary to rumors that circulated a month ago when the Federal Trade Commission granted UnitedHealth Group a preliminary green light to acquire Audax, the deal is not an outright acquisition. CEO Grant Verstandig and President David Ko will continue to lead Audax Health Solutions as "a freestanding investment of Optum," according to a statement from Audax.

“Optum and Audax share the common goals of improving health care and making the health system work better, and we believe the combination of our skills and experience serving people across virtually every health care channel can help us reach those goals faster,” David Wichmann, UnitedHealth Group CFO, said in a statement. “The shareholders, customers, leadership and employees of Audax are already making compelling contributions to managing health. We are committed to supporting the ongoing efforts of the Audax team to engage consumers in taking better control of their health.”

The deal will not affect Audax's existing relationships with customers, even United competitors like Cigna, whose CIO Mark Boxer sits on Audax's board. Audax told MobiHealthNews in an email those existing relationships would continue.

Audax Health Solutions, which counts former Apple CEO John Sculley among its board members, is developing Zensey, a gamified health social network and employee wellness program. In addition to gamified health and fitness incentives, Zensey, which used to be called Careverge, consists of a place for patients to aggregate health data from providers and an anonymous forum to discuss health concerns with other members, as well as connections to various smartphone-enabled health devices.

“Joining with Optum, especially with its unmatched depth of experience and resources, accelerates our momentum, providing the additional reach and scale required to meaningfully advance health care more rapidly,” Verstandig said in a statement.

As MobiHealthNews pointed out last month, at least two of Audax’s executives are former UnitedHealth employees. Dogu Celebi and Phil Harker, Audax senior vice presidents for informatics and client development, respectively, both come from divisions of Optum.

The deal puts UnitedHealth in good company with Humana, which bought employee wellness platform Healthrageous last fall to shore up its corporate wellness platform, Humana Vitality. Like Humana, UnitedHealth Group has also had its own gamified corporate wellness platform, OptumizeMe, which has not been in the spotlight for some time.

Aetna and Cigna, meanwhile, are focusing on ecosystem plays rather than acquisitions, with Aetna CarePass and Cigna GoYou Marketplace respectively.