What the heck is an Accountable Care Organization (ACO)?  That's I question I've had and since the Patient Protection and Accountable Care Act legislation, there's been a veritable firestorm of interest, concern, etc.

One of the many definitions is: "An ACO is a group of health care providers who agree to take on a shared responsibility for the care of a defined population of patients while assuring active management of both the quality and cost of that care."

Our health care in the U.S. is not financially sustainable at current rates of growth and the fact that the U.S. ranks 37th in the world in terms of health (WHO ranking) is a cause for great concern.  The ACO is a system approach to get those costs under control and improve quality.  An ACO can also "dovetail" with the Patient Centered Medical Home.  But, it will take momumental changes in approaches to health care at the regional, practice and individual physician (and administrator) level.   The ACO will represent a paradigm shift!

The AAFP has created a very useful document which I've taken and created in a portable document (PDF) which you can share with your colleaques (be they physicians or administrators - i.e. stakeholders).  It is entitled "Everything you need to know about Accountable Care Organizations (in plain English)".  HERE is sthe LINK to download it: "LINK!"

The FAQ document also provides more than two dozen answers to questions such as:

  • How do you get paid in an ACO?
  • What is shared savings, and how will the savings be distributed to providers?
  • What is risk adjustment in the context of an ACO?
  • How is efficiency measured?
  • What should you consider if approached to sell your practice?
  • Are ACOs just a passing fad, or are they here to stay?
  • What actions should you take immediately?

So, attitudes and the medical and hospital culture will need to make dramatic changes to what is coming.   However, AS LONG AS WE STAY FOCUSED ON THE PATIENT, THEIR FAMILY  and GIVE THEM THE BEST POSSIBLE CARE, we should do OK.   The "OSTRICH approach" of ignoring the changes around us ultimately will only hurt ourselves and our patients.

I hope you find the document useful both for yourself and others in your office/clinic, hospital and regional health care system.


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