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Assessing ACO Interest

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, April 13, 2012
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This article appears in the April 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Accountable care organizations, heralded as the cornerstone of healthcare reform, remain something of an enigma in the healthcare industry. While ACOs hold the promise of retooling the industry into a leaner, meaner cost-cutting, care-improving machine, there's still plenty of doubt that ACOs are the way to go, according to results from the 2012 HealthLeaders Media Accountable Care Organization Survey.

While 11% of respondents say they are already part of an ACO, for the rest that are not, just 39% of healthcare leaders say their organization plans to become part of an ACO. Rob Slattery is surprised by what he considers to be a low level of interest. He suggests that for the majority that is not interested in developing an ACO the focus may still be on the more defined Medicare Shared Savings Program and not so much on developing a commercial ACO. "They may have looked at the Medicare program and decided that they don't want to assume that type of risk."

Slattery is president and CEO of Integrated Solutions Health Network, which includes 2,000 physicians, 14 community hospitals, five skilled nursing facilities, and four ambulatory surgical centers, among other healthcare business lines. ISHN is developing an ACO as part of Mountain States Health Alliance, a 13-hospital system based in Johnson City, TN.

The survey shows that the organizations interested in ACOs are setting a fast track to have them operational. Some 11% were up and running in 2011 and another 57% are expected to come on board by 2014.

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