ACOs Increasingly Assuming Population Health Management Duties

Accountable care organizations (ACOs) have exploded in popularity over the past three or four years as value-based reimbursement takes hold in the healthcare industry, and their work has rapidly built momentum towards bringing population health management to hundreds of communities. 

In an opinion piece for the American Journal of Managed Care, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, notes that the number of ACOs has jumped from 64 in 2011 to nearly 750 in 2015, representing a significant shift in the way healthcare organizations view their financial and clinical responsibilities.

“As recently as 2012, accountable care organizations (ACOs) were often described as ‘mythical unicorn creatures,” Lavizzo-Mourey writes. “We’ve come a long way in a few short years, thanks to the incentives included in the 2010 Affordable Care Act that encourage medical centers, clinics, and practitioners to band together and create these coordinated, integrated healthcare entities that may finally end the problematic fee-for-service payment model.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has taken an active interest in this transformation, publishing research on a wide variety of topics related to the health IT infrastructure, data governance, privacy concerns, and organizational change management required to create a healthcare ecosystem where ACOs can thrive.

While the accountable care organization is a financial arrangement at its core, allowing participating members to share in value-based rewards in addition to shouldering risk, the ACO has always been more than just a way to shift the balance sheet.  ACOs are often among the most advanced and integrated primary care delivery systems, offering sophisticated population health management services founded on a platform of big data analytics.

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