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What Is an Accountable Care Organization?


The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has named Kelsey-Seybold Clinic the nation’s first accredited accountable care organization (ACO). You may be wondering what this means or why this is important.

An accountable care organization, or ACO, is a coordinated healthcare system that strives to deliver quality care at a lower total medical cost by focusing on several key areas:

  • Coordination of care across multiple medical specialties and care settings, both inpatient and outpatient.
  • Evidence-based care practices.
  • Use of information technology.
  • Quality measurement and accountability for quality of care, patient satisfaction, and the total cost of care.
  • Incentives for prevention, care management, and outcomes.
  • Team-based care in which physicians, nurses, and specialists work together to provide coordinated care for patients. These professionals come together and agree on ways to improve care outcomes. A strong emphasis is placed on proactive measures, including prevention, identification of disease, and ongoing intervention on disease states.

Accountable Care Organizations Drive Value and ​Quality

With ongoing healthcare reform, there’s been much discussion about the benefits of an ACO like Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. Here are some important facts:

  • Accountable care organizations are responsible for quality of care and cost for a population of patients — focused on care coordination, best practices, and quality measurement.
  • In a survey of more than 130 hospital leaders from organizations across the country, more than half predict that accountable care organizations would be the best model of success for the future.  (MedAssets , 2010, Hospital & Health System Leader Poll, Preparing for Change.)
  • Examples of successful accountable care organizations include Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Geisinger Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, Scott & White, and Cleveland Clinic.
  • The 2008 Dartmouth Atlas of Healthcare recommends that “Medicare policy should support ‘organized’ systems of effective care management, with a strong primary care component.”
  • Dr. Uwe Reinhardt of Princeton University reports that with ACOs, “Care providers can stay on top of what preventive measures and therapies are most effective.”​​