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Survey Find Hospitals Slow to Form ACOs

In a recent study conducted by Purdue Healthcare Advisors, 95% of hospital executives reported that they have fully embraced the initiative to implement electronic health records, a critical component of President Barak Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. An equally important tenant of the new law is not being adapted by the medical industry quite as easily. The initiative to transition the country to a healthcare model of “accountable care organizations”–more commonly referred to as ACOs–had only a 20% rate of adoption at the time the survey was conducted. What’s more, 46% of hospital administrators reported having no future plans to make the ACO transition.

Medicare Patients

Accountable care organizations are cooperatives of healthcare professionals and hospitals that work together to care for a pool of Medicare patients and agree to hold themselves accountable for the quality, cost and overall care of the individuals they serve.

One of the benefits of the ACO model is the money it will potentially save both the government and the healthcare system. One incentive offered to medical professionals who make the shift to cooperative healthcare is that ACO groups are given a portion of the money that they will save Medicare. However, respondents to Purdue’s survey say that the incentives that are currently offered just won’t cut it to make transitioning to an ACO model worth the trouble.

52% of hospital directors wanted to see more evidence that the ACO model would be successful, at least according to respondents from Purdue’s study. 49% of executives believed that their facility was not large enough to reap the benefits of transition sing to an ACO. Other reasons that hospitals were slow to adapt to an ACO model were a lack of financial incentives (29%), unrealistic benchmarks (13%), and an inclination that the transition would be too overwhelming for their staff to handle.

Perhaps directors are feeling uneasy about enacting change in the stressful climate that they currently found themselves in: a notable reduction of both patients and Medicare reimbursements, haunted by staff salary reductions, which 19% of hospital executives currently report considering.

Only two months after Purdue published the results from their survey of hospital executive attitudes toward ACOs, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that in 2013, 114 ACOs organized and exceeded over $380 million in savings. Although only 29 of the 114 active ACOs reached the benchmark to be eligible for a bonus, the future of accountable care organizations looks bright.

Tom Prose