Climb aboard the ACO train

As if long-term care (LTC) providers don’t have enough issues to keep them up nights, between adapting to the MDS 3.0 and fretting over the myriad changes related to healthcare reform, here’s yet another to contemplate: the rise of the Accountable Care Organization (ACO). Are you familiar with the ACO concept and its implications for your operation? If not, or to learn more, check out Long-Term Living’s November issue. The cover story, “Meet Your Newest and Toughest Customer,” by contributor Pam Selker Rak, offers a tutorial of sorts, call it ACO 101, that delves into the growth of ACOs resulting from the seeds of healthcare reform sown years ago.

Basically, ACOs are defined by Rak as “a group of healthcare providers working together to manage and coordinate care for a defined population that shares in any savings achieved by reducing the total cost of care while maintaining or, better yet, improving patient outcomes.” Today, says Rak, providers are paid to provide a service but are not accountable for the outcomes or health of a patient. If the outcome is bad, often it results in a need for more service. ACOs are designed to hold a set of providers accountable for patient outcomes by providing the right service, at the right time, in the right setting and, in turn, rewarding them for reducing the cost of care.

What does that mean for LTC providers? Well, for one thing, it means a demand for more data-driven outcomes. It means being prepared to demonstrate decreased re-admits to hospital, high-quality outcomes, and lower operational costs. As an overview of the ramifications of ACOs and a guide to what you can do to position your organization to best adapt to this new model of accountability, this article is a must read.

Also, in the November issue, be sure to check out other on-trend topics in LTC, including “Healthcare Reform: What Does it Mean for LTC Employers,” national developments in seniors housing, and “Sexual Health, Wellness in Seniors.”

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