Providers looking for ways to improve patient outcomes and raise the quality of their care are turning to accountable care organizations (ACOs) and patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) at a rapid rate, according to a new survey by eClinicalWorks. Electronic health records are the engine behind the shift towards more collaborative, patient-centric care, allowing better data analytics, alerts for high-risk patients, and tracking of quality and patient outcomes, which is a major challenge for providers embracing risk-based reimbursements.
The survey of more than 2,000 clinical practitioners and practice administrators showed that providers are increasingly interested in ACO and PCMH models to increase their market share, use resources effectively, and better treat their patients. Over half of the providers surveyed already participate in a risk-based or shared savings organization, while another third anticipate joining or creating a collaborative within the next three years. Two-thirds of participants believe that ACOs and PCMHs effectively improve patient outcomes, while 41% think the business structures make a better use of financial resources, while 39% appreciate the shared savings.
However, many providers who are not part of an ACO or PCMH are waiting to see exactly how much those benefits total up before committing to the switch. One quarter of participants are watching to see how their peers benefit from the accreditation, while 14% are unsure if they will see a return on investment in their own practices. A relatively small number, only one in ten, believe that the necessary changes are simply too significant to seriously pursue. The remaining respondents weren’t sure why their might not pursue an ACO or PCMH designation, but have no plans at the moment to do so.
One of the challenges that may deter some providers is the burden of reporting quality data to maintain compliance. Three quarters of ACO participants cited tracking and monitoring of quality outcomes as their primary struggle, while a similar number said that care coordination for patients across multiple providers also presented difficulty. In a nod to the efficiency of EHRs and practice management software, which 95% of providers think is the key to ACO and PCMH participation, only 30% of respondents said that it was challenging to get their IT systems to produce the necessary reports.
Providers praised the ability of EHR software to produce useful alerts for high-risk patients, with 75% rating the feature as “very important” to their daily work. Care planning and coordination tools were also popular. Patient engagement extras, like online portals, smartphone apps, and patient-facing notifications and surveys, were also important to providers. Other systems such as case management capabilities, standard reporting formats for quality measures, and cost and utilization analytics rounded out the must-haves for ACOs and PCMHs, with more than 90% of survey respondents rating each of them as very important.
While accountable care organizations are still relatively new, and many providers have adopted a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to shouldering more financial risk in an industry already in flux, ACOs and patient-centered medical homes are increasingly successful as EHRs take root in the majority of provider offices. With the proliferation of better reporting tools and a pervasive emphasis on quality care and cost reductions, ACOs and PCMHs will only become more popular as the focus on coordinated care and patient engagement continues to grow.