Healthcare Business News

More ACOs coming in new year

By Melanie Evans
Posted: December 12, 2012 - 3:30 pm ET

The number of accountable care organizations operating under Medicare's shared-savings program is expected to grow in the coming weeks.

The initiative began roughly eight months ago with 27 accountable care organizations and expanded in July to include another 89. Created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the program offers hospitals and doctors financial incentives that are tied to quality goals and targets for cost control.

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A CMS spokeswoman declined to say how many organizations applied for the upcoming round of ACOs or how many would be named, but confirmed the start date of Jan. 1.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, also created by the healthcare reform law, also launched 32 accountable care organizations nearly a year ago.

Anecdotal reports from Medicare ACO leaders suggest ACOs are developing new incentives for doctors to better promote patient satisfaction, said Stephen Shortell, dean and a professor of health policy and management for the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health. ACO financial incentives are tied to the cost of patient care, regardless of whether patients seek care inside or outside the ACO's hospitals and medical groups, said Shortell, an early researcher on ACO development. Stronger patient satisfaction may encourage patients to remain within ACOs, he said.

Shortell said the University of California Berkeley and Dartmouth College have launched a survey of ACOs, and he's watching to see if upcoming ACOs learn from and adapt to lessons learned by ACOs already under way.

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