ACO benefits: What can you expect?
The formation of ACOs is quickly becoming the hottest trend in healthcare. But at this point, ACOs are still a relatively novel concept, and their benefits mostly speculative. Given the amount of time, money and effort involved in building out an ACO, it’s just got to be asked: What benefits can participants reasonably expect?
1. Shared resources: Obviously, working together in ACO brings more resources to the table for all participants. Coordinating the use of those resources is a big deal; at the outset at least it’s far from clear who ought to be doing what in the relationship. However, at least they have more options than they did playing it solo.
2. Shared capital investment: Participants in an ACO can conceivably share the burden of capital investments needed to make the organization work. Those can range from health IT to customer service infrastructure to real estate investment. The bottom line is that capital investment shared lowers risk for everybody concerned.
3. More leverage to bargain with health plans: Another dead obvious benefit a participating in an ACO is realizing more leverage with which to bargain with health plans.to do this effectively, the ACO will have to be integrated well, but the potential is there to strike deals with health plans that weren’t possible before. ( Health plans know this, so its little wonder that some health plans are beginning to form ACOs with providers.)
5. Shared health IT infrastructure: By this point, providers have already invested a great deal in high-end IT infrastructure, especially on EMR related technologies. But as the ACO model evolves it seems clear that additional IT infrastructure specific to the ACO relationship must be purchased and managed. Forming a strong partnership will make this possible without forcing any of the partners to duplicate their efforts and in such new areas as population management.
Realistically, providers can’t expect to see these benefits emerge immediately after the ACO deal is signed. Simply putting together a shared organization that’s staffed and organized adequately for the new challenges ACOs impose is going to take some time. But within the next two or three years, ACOs to mature to the point where all of the benefits and more should be realized for those who start now.