With the US healthcare system in shambles, there is a lot riding on Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). In fact, most medical professionals today regard ACOs as the cornerstone of the healthcare reforms. ’There is a need for a grand scheme; a vision that can align goals in the health community. ACOs offer just that’, says one physician.
Ken Congdon, Editor in Chief of Healthcare Technology Online explains that there is still some uncertainty amongst providers as to how ACO affects their practice, and as a result most of the care community is still trying to ascertain their role in the ACO landscape.
While it has been a driving force behind EMR interoperability and the Health Information Exchange (HIE) technology, physicians regard ACO as a principle based approach which promotes an organizational level change and not just a health IT initiative by the government. Gregg Masters from ACO watch brands the concept as a child of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After all, the concept of ACO stems from the shared saving program within the Act. The Act defines ACO as ’an entity that will be held accountable for improving the health and experience of individuals and improving the health of populations, while reducing the rate of growth in healthcare spending.’ (Ref. CMS)
ACO endorses the connected care structure for clinical coordination. Such coordination not only helps reduce medical errors and oversights but also improves response times, which allow patients to get the right care at the right time. ACOs target cost efficiencies through reduced care disparity. It applies the same concept to medical compensation by replacing the fee-for-service with fee-for-performance, which helps encourage quality care. John Lynn from healthcarescene.com writes in his blog, ’I must admit that the idea of getting paid more for doing something better than someone else is beautiful. This is even more true in healthcare where I love the idea of a doctor getting paid to really improve my health as opposed to getting paid for services that I may or may not need.’
While the ACO program is completely voluntary, multiple organizations have enrolled themselves and are committing to better care principles. CMS recently reported an addition of 88 healthcare organizations in the ACO program, taking the total to 153. Even organizations that dispute Medicare shared saving initiative agree that ACO is on the horizon. ’Every modern practice must strive to incorporate similar principles. It is not just about enrolling in the program. That’s not how an ACO is defined’, shared one hospital administrator.