The emphasis will be on funding digital health companies that use data and insights to help improve consumers’ access to healthcare services.

A business arm of the biggest health insurer is creating a $250 million war chest to invest primarily in promising digital healthcare and health data companies.

This morning at UnitedHealth Group’s annual investors day meeting in New York Optum, the carrier’s health services business, launched Optum Ventures, a $250 million venture fund focused on investing in startup and early-stage companies

The emphasis will be on funding digital health companies that use data and insights to help improve consumers’ access to healthcare services and how care is delivered and paid for, says Optum CEO and managing partner of Optum Ventures Larry Renfro.

“Optum Ventures is uniquely positioned to help develop and grow startups and early-stage companies through capital investment, Optum’s decades of experience in healthcare, and our access to the healthcare marketplace,” Renfro says.

The emphasis will be on funding digital health companies that use data and insights to help improve consumers’ access to healthcare services.

Optum Ventures didn’t disclose funding amounts, but says its first round of seed money for digital healthcare companies includes:

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  • Apervita, a developer of cloud-based healthcare applications and analytic applications.
  • Buoy Health, which builds artificial intelligence-powered digital health assistant that helps patients better understand their symptoms and get advice on where to go and what to do next.
  • Mindstrong Health, a developer of machine learning and artificial intelligence to assess a patient’s smartphone interactions to help diagnose and treat neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • SHYFT Analytics, which provides a cloud-based data and analytics platform for life sciences companies.

Optum Ventures will operate independently and will have offices in Boston and Menlo Park, Calif.

November has been a busy month of business development deals for Optum and UnitedHealth. On Nov. 15 Optum acquired The Advisory Board Co., a performance assessment and enhancement firm that uses a combination of research, technology and consulting to improve the performance for more than 4,400 healthcare organizations, in a deal valued at $2.6 billion.

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