The decision to join an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) can be challenging for independent physicians. Some providers might be skeptical as to whether joining such an organization might reap more rewards than restraints. For independent physicians, there are many considerations involved but there can also be many potential benefits.
Physicians who are considering entering into an ACO agreement might want to consider the following:
- Independent physicians may qualify for the Medicare Shared Savings program as part of the ACO. Establishing strong partnerships with other physicians within the ACO and coordinating services can result in increased savings for all. A recent article in Referral MD advises, though, that “to reduce costs and increase savings, practices and physicians should carefully consider which healthcare providers they choose as partners.”
- The independent physician’s “data will need to be more accessible, more accurate, and more appropriately used to align with the greater ACO value proposition.” The article, “Preparing for accountable care organizations: a physician primer,” points out that data will “become of paramount importance” for a physician joining an ACO.
- Managing the necessary data is a more efficient process with an electronic health record (EHR) solution. Patient information is available with one click, during and after the patient visit. In addition, coordinating with other providers is less time consuming when collaborative takes place electronically rather than through faxes or a series of phone calls.
- Independent physicians should “have a clear understanding of patient attribution, financial incentives, and quality metrics within any ACO agreement,” according to the Primer. Going into the agreement with a clear picture of responsibilities and ramifications will help ensure the ACO and the independent physician are successful.
- Patient engagement and retention are enhanced in an ACO. According to Referral MD, providers “communicate more efficiently and tend to make better-informed decisions because of specific quality standards that determine the savings they receive,” resulting in higher quality care and patient satisfaction.