Report: Technology a linchpin to ACO readiness

Data-mining capabilities called key to understanding care quality, spending, use patterns
Tools

Underlying technology is cited as one of the essential elements in an organization's readiness to transition to accountable care, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund.

The report examines the readiness of 59 hospital-based organizations that were members of a collaborative created to support the transition to accountable care, according to an announcement. In breaking down readiness into 154 specific operating activities, it found the overall state of readiness was only modest, which it calls surprising, given that they'd already taken the step of joining the collaborative.

While the report discusses the importance of ACO leadership, a patient-centered foundation, payer relationship and other factors, it stresses that the financial resources to invest in the requisite infrastructure is essential.

"Development of underlying information technology was found to be another element necessary for accountable care," the report states. "This technology goes beyond electronic health records and health information exchanges and enables the integration of disparate data, analysis of data across a patient population, stratification of financial and clinical risk in the population, and measurement of the impact of targeted interventions."

In addition, it says:

"…an information technology infrastructure that can support data mining is key, as monitoring a patient population's healthcare quality, spending, and utilization is fundamental to operating an ACO effectively."

So far, providers aren't giving health IT tools high marks for adapting to the ACO model. Perhaps that's one of the reasons ACO adoption has been below the Obama administration's projections. That number is expected to grow exponentially, though, with more than 200 organizations expected to be designated in the third Medicare cohort, to be announced in January. 

A recent report by Salt Lake City-based healthcare intelligence firm Leavitt Partners and Orem, Utah-based KLAS Research that analyzes Medicare ACOs and commercial ACOs outside of the government, found that 65 percent of the ACOs are "mainstream," with Medicare Shared Savings or commercial payer arrangements; one-fifth are "toe-dippers," which are just getting started and unsure of a long-term strategy; and 15 percent are forerunners that were functioning before ACOs even were defined.

To help solve some technology headaches, the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology announced last week it will develop an IT framework for ACOs to serve as a technology roadmap for those just getting started on the transition.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- read the full report

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