Many family physicians across the country are weighing the pros and cons of joining an accountable care organization (ACO). Simply defined, an ACO is a network of health care professionals and organizations that band together to provide health care services for a defined population of patients. The network is paid to provide coordinated, comprehensive care to patients and assumes responsibility for the cost and quality of that care.
ACOs represent one of several emerging payment models in the health care market.
To help members understand the myriad issues that play into the decision-making process that precedes entering into such a business arrangement, the AAFP recently updated and added to its assortment of ACO resources available to members at no charge.
A printed compilation of the online materials -- in booklet form -- was distributed to family physicians who attended this year's AAFP Congress of Delegates and Scientific Assembly, Sept. 23-28, in San Diego. Now, family physicians who were unable to join their colleagues in San Diego have access to all the same information.
In its online ACO resources, the AAFP answers questions about how to
- leverage ACOs to reduce the cost of health care,
- achieve balanced ACO cost-sharing among all partners,
- evaluate differences between commercial ACOs and those established by federal programs related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,
- fulfill practice efficiency and quality goals via ACO participation,
- maintain practice ownership while participating in an ACO, and
- evaluate potential ACO partners.
The online version of the Academy's ACO content also includes a frequently-asked-questions document; a link to TransforMED materials that describe the role of independent physicians who join ACOs; and an article outlining the joint principles for ACOs developed by the AAFP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and the American Osteopathic Association in 2010.
In addition, family physicians are invited to e-mail the AAFP or call (800) 274-2237 to discuss any additional questions about ACOs with an AAFP staff member.