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ACOs are realizing goals of improving care and saving money: CMS

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | August 26, 2015
Emergency Medicine Population Health Primary Care Risk Management
The ultimate goal of health reform is to develop a system that delivers better care, more quickly, and at a lower cost. According to CMS’ new 2014 quality and financial performance results, Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are on the right track to achieving those objectives.

CMS evaluated the performance of ACOs on a broad spectrum of 33 metrics. Among those metrics are how highly patients rated their physician, how well clinicians communicate, whether they screened for high blood pressure, tobacco use and cessation and their use of EHRs.

In their third year, the pioneer ACOs demonstrated improvements in 28 of the specific categories and had an average improvement rate of 3.6 percent across all metrics. The Shared Savings Program ACOs improved 27 of the metrics over the course of 2013 and 2014.

“These results show that accountable care organizations as a group are on the path toward transforming how care is provided," Andy Slavitt, CMS acting administrator, said in a statement. “Many of these ACOs are demonstrating that they can deliver a higher level of coordinated care that leads to healthier people and smarter spending.”

When an ACO demonstrates that it has achieved high-quality care and reduced spending above specific thresholds, it is able to share in the savings generated for Medicare. The 20 pioneer ACOs and 333 Shared Savings Program ACOs have generated over $411 million in savings.

The results of the analysis also revealed that the number of Medicare beneficiaries served by ACOs has steadily increased from year to year and is expected to grow again next year. Since the ACA was passed in 2010, over 420 Medicare ACOs have been created that serve more than 7.8 million Americans.

ACOs are one of the ways that the administration is striving to provide Medicare beneficiaries with high-quality, patient-centered care. They aim to do that through providing the right care at the right time, avoiding unnecessary duplicate services and preventing medical errors.

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