In a highly complex healthcare ecosystem, a relatively simple idea has emerged that has the potential to simultaneously control costs and improve health outcomes: the Accountable Care Organization (ACO). The ACO ensures that providers are directly responsible for the health outcome of patients under their care, as well as the financial resources consumed to obtain that health outcome. Commercial and public payers alike have joined in the ACO movement, with Medicaid ACOs already operational in nine states with projections for further growth. Perhaps most intriguing, the ACO model aligns provider and payer incentives to make true care coordination a tantalizing possibility where stakeholders across the spectrum of healthcare delivery collaborate on patient care plans, taking into account treatment variability based on understanding the patient’s full medical, social, community, and financial circumstances.
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