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A New Acronym in Iowa: ACOs

David P. Lind BenchmarkRecently, my interactions with the health care system have been up close and personal. I can tell you that my wife and I have experienced great frustration when seeking coordinated care for our daughter in recent months, both in and out of the hospital.

Having to reconstruct her medical history over and over and over for each new health care provider has been discouraging, annoying, and frankly, unnecessary. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.

Lack of coordination between different health care providers for the same patient is a major concern in this country. Not only is it incredibly frustrating to the patient and family members, it’s potentially dangerous and very costly due to inefficiencies and duplication of services.

Your insurance premiums, by the way, are adversely affected by this current delivery of care.

What about ACOs

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are the latest trendy model for delivering health care services by doctors and hospitals.

In a nutshell, an ACO is a network of doctors and hospitals who share responsibility for providing care to their patients.

Sounds good to me! However, I recently read that ACOs are being compared to the elusive unicorn: everyone seems to know what it looks like, but no one has actually seen one.

Imbedded in the massive new health law, ACOs were allotted only seven pages of provisions, but they’re causing a tremendous amount of interest with many stakeholders (patients being one!).

The intent of an ACO is to bring together the different aspects of care for the patient— primary care, specialists, hospitals, home care, etc.—and make providers jointly accountable for the health care of their patients.

Through the new health law, financial incentives will be given to providers to cooperate and save money by avoiding unnecessary tests and procedures. To do this, they must seamlessly share a patient’s medical information between themselves. So instead of the patient and family members having to educate each provider on the medical history, the ACO team would have all information at their fingertips.

Personally, I hope that ACOs (or something like them) become the “new normal” in our delivery system. It cannot come soon enough for this parent!

To learn more about the Final Regulations for ACOs, click here.