Can Accountable Care Organizations Be Revitalized?

At the 2021 Fall Managed Care Forum, Theresa Hush, chief executive officer of Roji Health Intelligence, posed the question of whether accountable care organizations (ACOs) can be revitalized to achieve the aspirations of value-based care.

Taking the pulse of the current healthcare enterprise, Ms. Hush noted that policymakers are of the opinion that ACOs are not saving enough and are resistant to change. From the ACO perspective, however, their numbers are declining because they cannot afford to accept risk. They are competing with other risks models, such as Medicare Advantage consolidated health systems.

To help them succeed in their goal of delivering valuable care, Ms. Hush prescribed six strategies: developing the tools to compete through collecting data to convince stakeholders of ACOs’ value; building physician support and inclusion; creating focused patient interventions; outlining distinct costs and benefits for patients; increasing the visibility of the ACO brand and leadership; and increasing flexibility for referral arrangements.

“Can ACOs be a viable strategy?” Ms. Hush asked. She answered in the affirmative, predicting a future in which ACOs may allow strong practice models to remain independent and successful. Of course, that requires health systems that have not embraced ACOs to learn to accept risk. Most ACOs also will need to upgrade their strategies to match their competition’s capabilities. “All ACOs must enlarge their data and learn to use data to drive interventions,” she concluded.