One of the more significant points of confusion and debate regarding the new health care law occupies only 7 pages of the law’s documentation. As part of the reform, the Medicare Shared Savings Program calls for providers to be part of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) if they expect to be paid. The real challenge here, leading to speculation that that there are probably more unicorns out there than functioning ACOs, is just in defining exactly what an ACO is in the first place.
In simple terms, an ACO is a network of doctors and hospitals that share responsibility for providing care to patients. The idea is that the quality of care will increase and the costs of replication and unnecessary treatments can be reduced. However, when you dive into the details on exactly how you will collect and report on the necessary core data, you end up with a lot more questions than answers.
One big problem is that in order for an ACO to have any hope of delivering on its promises, each organization in the network must utilize an Electronic Health Records (EHR) system. Organizations which do not have the means to both collect and exchange patient data within this network will have a very hard time seeing any gains. Supported within a recent HealthLeaders Media intelligence report, 63% of survey respondents indicated that the lack of adequate EHR systems will be a high risk factor for failure of the ACO concept. The good news is that executives within most healthcare organizations already have EHR in their roadmaps and there is no shortage of EHR software providers and consultants ready to take their money. Another provision in the program calls for an assessment of the quality of care being delivered. This, on the other hand, is a set of processes and systems which are a lot further from the minds and budgets of most healthcare organizations today.
Electronic Competency Records (ECR) are the data repository and system which allows for organizations to effectively educate, test, evaluate and require the demonstration of performance for each care giver on their staff. In addition, it includes a traditional learning management system and a portfolio to assist in the ongoing education and compliance process. When you roll-up all of your staff member’s experience, education, evaluations, completed checklists, continuing education transcripts and personal reflections, you are presented with a very good competency picture for the entire organization. Exactly what an ACO will need.
More good news, Decision Critical is one of only a few providers out there with a single SaaS solution that can manage it all.
For more details on this HealthLeaders Media report and survey, check out the full article.