An IT model for accountable care organizations (ACOs) is being developed by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT). CCHIT is authorized by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to certify electronic health record products. CCHIT’s latest framework will assist providers in identifying the steps they must take to become an ACO as well as any areas of operations that may prevent them from reaching ACO status.
ACOs have been the subject of other new initiatives, with some trying to apply data analytics to boost ACO performance. Health data analytics can be used proactively to identify patients with the greatest need for specialized care, and help determine a plan of action. Most organizations current using health analytics predominately study data retrospectively.
Building off previous cost-containment models, federal officials included the ACO system in the health care reform law in an effort to lower health care costs and make all care facilities responsible for accurately sharing patient data. Under the model, physicians and hospitals will have to manage their patient populations with specific pools of money that all providers on the care continuum would share. Medicare payments will be reduced if organizations are found to be inefficient in their care. Preventative care, treating patients before their condition worsens, is a main idea behind ACO adoption. This is expected to reduce the cost of treatment for both the patient and the facility.
Hospitals are participating in ACOs and other coordinated care models in spite of concerns about the payment model because sharing patient information is the wave of the future, with use the old fee-for-service models dissipating. Conversion to ACOs could help hospitals save money and time, despite cutting down on expensive hospitals stays for patients with serious health issues. The HHS passed an initiative that provides incentives to facilities that meet ACO standards.
Hospitals have been aided by the monetary benefits provided by ACO participation and cooperation with other care facilities. They are forced to share information with other hospitals in order to meet ACO standards and collect incentive payments. Hospitals have been reluctant to share information with others in the past for competitive reasons; now they are motivated to do so for similar reasons. Health information exchange (HIE) systems have received collateral benefits from this newfound information sharing. The facts suggest hospitals are only motivated by money to share their information, but they are sharing it nonetheless.