ACO – What are some of the key challenges an organization will face when evaluating whether or not to participate in an ACO?

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are groups of physicians and healthcare organizations and providers who voluntarily give quality coordinated care to their Medicare patients. ACOs are essential in improving the safety and quality of care a patient receives and saves money for both the provider and the patient. Organizations consider various challenges when choosing whether or not to join an ACO. The first challenge is the difficulty of implementation of the ACO.  The organization’s design is based on the sharing of the information, and providers who want to be part of the group have to have the infrastructure.  It is a challenge for small providers that do not have an information infrastructure such as electronic medical records to join ACOs. Another challenge is that some physicians are excluded from joining ACOs. Unlike employed physicians, independent physicians are not favoured by the ACO models. The physicians often grow weary of joining the organization. The exclusivity of ACOs could be a challenge that affects the choice the physicians make.

Healthcare organizations, especially those that operate on a small scale, find it hard to get technical assistance when deciding whether to join ACOs.  The lack of support on choosing the right ACO becomes a challenge that makes most providers give up in the process. Leadership is also a challenge as ACOs make physicians prominent in the health organizational structures. Therefore, administrators have to know they have to strike the right balance to ensure that organizations can quickly implement new systems.  It is also hard to find ACOs that will be in line with the organization’s culture, which will not influence the organization’s whole culture. In most cases, organizations have to be able to drive cultural change. It is a challenge that such organizations have to consider.

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