Massachusetts Medical Society: The Future of ACOs: New Guide for Physicians and Practices

The Future of ACOs: New Guide for Physicians and Practices


While numerous factors will determine the long-term sustainability of accountable care organizations, the model is here to stay. New variations of ACO models are being tested across the country and national accreditation and certification standards are being set by the Department of Health and Human Services and more locally by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission. A new guide authored by Physician Practice Research Center experts titled MMS Guide to Accountable Care Organizations Part 2: Exploring the Future of ACOs joins our series of resources designed to help practices navigate the road to being part of an ACO and features insights into how ACOs are faring, strategy options for prospective participants, and discusses the regulations and potential risks and benefits associated with each model.

An exploration of challenges and successes of the Pioneer and Medicare Shared Savings Programs at state and national levels aim to give physicians a head start in preparing for the future of ACO models. A few tips highlighted in the guide:

  • Having a strategy for integration into an ACO is essential, as multiple major components of the practice need to change simultaneously during the transition.
  • The utilization of population health management capabilities is not sustainable for a practice unless the reimbursement structure is modified so that savings from such procedures can be collected.
  • It’s important to consider your prior experience taking on financial risk when considering the different types of ACOs (e.g., shared risk, shared savings, global risk), and consider utilizing a phased approach over the first three years, with the percentage split of surplus/deficit and level of risk increasing over time.
  • The ACO model is built upon a philosophy of constant improvement with an eye to the future, so our review of Next Generation ACOs and Medicare value-based payment goals will review what is on the horizon for this dynamic delivery model. The movement toward alternative payment methods can no longer be ignored, so let us give you the information you need to know about ACOs to best align the future direction of your practice.

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