Revamped ACO initiative creates wonder

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Kaitlyn Dmyterko, senior writer

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand,” Neil Armstrong, American astronaut, once said. In healthcare, accountable care organizations (ACOs) continue to mystify those in the healthcare industry; however, after the final rule was issued last week, we now may be one step closer to understanding their worth.

With the new era of health IT and meaningful use, it is now difficult to remember the complex paper-based healthcare system. In fact, a survey released this week showed that 75.5 percent of large physician offices have already adopted EHRs, helping to alleviate written documentation and potentially improve patient outcomes.

While improving patient care remains the principal goal of healthcare, now physicians must work to provide top-notch care at a price tag that can help increase the hospital's bottom line. Can ACO’s help? According to the final rule issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the new and improved ACO regulations could boost incentives.

The two programs—the Medicare Shared Savings Program and Advance Payment model—would provide healthcare workers with greater incentives than the rule put forth in March that was so heavily scrutinized. In fact, HHS said that the revamped initiative, which societies like the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Medical Association are praising, could save nearly $940 million over a four-year period.

While the exact inner workings of the ACO are still not set in stone, the possible incentives laced within the regulations could motivate hospitals to participate. ACC’s CEO Jack Lewin said that the society commends CMS’ decision to overhaul the previous ACO rule. He added, “We are supportive of the focus on quality of care and care related to cardiovascular disease within this final rule.”

As far as wonder goes, many still question whether the ACO will be the most effective model to streamline resources and improve care. Additionally, many wonder what the final structure of the ACO will look like, how much it will cost and whether implementation is feasible. While many questions remain, these doubts and queries will be what drive those in the healthcare sector to understand the ACO, and with these new incentives, be more apt to participate.

What are your thoughts on the ACO? Email me and let me know.

Kaitlyn Dmyterko
Cardiovascular Business, senior writer