Connecting UMB Researchers with Optum Labs' Data


In Summer 2014, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) joined the Optum Labs research collaborative to pursue innovative projects focusing on improving patient value in the delivery of health care. Combining our research and informatics resources with the data, tools, expertise and infrastructure of Optum Labs, the partnership goal is to increase the scope and impact of research that leads to improved patient care and outcomes. The partners will combine complementary expertise and resources to collaboratively pursue project funding from government, philanthropic organizations, and industry.

Our goal for this collaboration is to establish UMB and Optum Labs (with other partners) as premier research collaborators in the use of secondary data to explore and advance solutions to pressing policy and health issues for aging Americans. Areas of focus include diagnosis and quality of care in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, healthy aging, preventive care in chronic diseases and conditions, and disabilities that result from falls.

The process for gaining access to Optum Labs’ rich data resources by UMB researchers is described below. We want to see this partnership thrive. If at any time you have questions about the process, data, or on the Optum Labs partnership, please contact the UMB project manager for the Optum Labs partnership.

Accessing Optum Labs’ Data:

Investigators across the University of Maryland’s many disciplines are welcome to propose research that makes use of Optum Labs’ resources. Access to the robust data assets involves a number of steps designed to put in place to: ensure data security and integrity, ensure contractual agreements between UMB and Optum Labs are maintained and adhered to, and clearly define roles and financial responsibilities. Costs for data and resources are the responsibility of the investigator and are made available through the partnership at rates designed for grant-funded academic budgets. (More information can be obtained regarding rates by contacting the UMB project manager for the Optum Labs partnership)

The UMB-Optum Labs Research Core Team serves as a resource for the UMB community to assist researchers in developing studies that effectively leverage Optum Labs’ significant data resources. Interested UMB and other UM researchers will be advised by the Research Core Team on Optum Labs data availability and quality, communicating with Optum Labs, performing preliminary analyses, reviewing project submissions, facilitating collaboration with other Optum Labs partners, and supporting workshops and one-on-one sessions. The UMB Research Core Team will further assist in finalizing proposals based on Optum Labs data through a three-step process:

  1. Evaluation of the proposed research topic:

    This first step is a review of the proposed topic and data elements of interest. It should include the following:
    • Project title
    • Short description of significance and background,
    • Specific aims, and
    • Preliminary list of variables/data elements sought
    This is submitted to the UMB Research Core Team, which will provide feedback on the feasibility of the project using the Optum Labs data resources.

    Download Topic Proposal Form


  2. Preparation of the Preliminary Research Application (PRA):

    With a green light from the UMB Research Core Team, the investigator will be asked to develop a 3-4 page preliminary research application (PRA). The UMB project manager and a PRC* analyst are available to help complete this form. The PRA will be reviewed by the UMB Research Core Team and feedback will be communicated through what we anticipate will be an iterative process. Upon completion, it will be submitted to the Optum Labs Research Review Committee (RRC). Review and feedback from this committee will be provided through UMB’s project manager. This exploratory work will form the basis for the detailed research application.


  3. Submission of a detailed research application (DRA):

    The DRA is a 10-15 page document that is created after exploratory analyses have been completed by the investigator with PRC support. The DRA will be reviewed by the Research Core Team for completeness and accuracy and then will be submitted for review and approval by the Optum Labs’ RRC. If there are comments or questions, the investigator will be contacted through UMB’s project manager. Relevant IRB approval should also be sought at this time. Once approved by this Committee, a Statement of Work (SOW) will be signed between UMB and Optum Labs for the specific project, and a study sandbox is created for detailed research analyses. Each project has its own SOW under the Master Agreement that is already in place. Upon approval, analyses can be completed by the PRC analyst supporting the investigator.

UMB Research Core Team Members:

  • Eleanor M. Perfetto, PhD, MS
    Professor of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research
    (Lead Researcher and Executive Sponsor)
  • Ebere Onukwugha, PhD, MS
    Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research
  • Bruce Stuart, PhD
    Professor & Director, Peter Lamy Center on Drug Therapy and Aging
  • Dure Kim, PharmD
    Postdoctoral Fellow, Pharmaceutical Health Services Research
    (Researcher and Partnership Program Manager)

About Optum Labs:

Optum Labs was co-founded in January 2013 by Optum (the health services business of UnitedHealth Group) and Mayo Clinic as the industry’s first open, collaborative research and innovative center. Based in Cambridge, MA, Optum Labs enables a community of healthcare stakeholders to conduct cutting-edge research by sharing information assets, technologies, knowledge tools and scientific expertise, with the primary goal of improving patient care and patient value. Optum Labs’ data and resources are made available to partners to support collaborative, publication-oriented research and clinical translation of innovation.


*Pharmaceutical Research Computing (PRC) is housed within the Department of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research (PHSR) at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and offers computer programming, data management, and analytic support for health services researchers. The center has expertise working with large commercially and publicly funded administrative claims databases, registries, and electronic medical records.