Data Management and Accountable Care Organizations

Decision Map

Download(1 page PDF) the Data Management decision map.

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and Data Management

Data is the lifeblood of an accountable care organization (ACO). One of the fundamental principles of the ACO model is that participants engage in seamless electronic sharing of relevant clinical data to ensure all health care providers can deliver “population health.” Moreover, ACOs that participate in the MSSP must report 33 quality measures, so good data management is doubly important.

The Data-Integration Challenge

Unfortunately, the obstacles here are formidable. The typical ACO may be assembled from a variety of practices, hospitals, and other organizations using a variety of record systems – some electronic and some paper – with no established way of pooling data or storing or analyzing the pooled data. Most ACOs cannot aspire to seamless data sharing in the short term, but every ACO needs a good, well-funded plan for moving quickly in that direction. Ask the ACO how it intends to make enough progress to achieve shared savings in the course of a three-year contract – and ask where the funding is coming from. Will you be required to contribute?

Health information exchanges – data management systems designed to connect different electronic health records (EHR) systems for clinical alignment – are on the market, but establishing these systems in any given ACO is extremely complicated and often expensive. If the ACO is unable to lay out clearly how your practice data will be extracted or how aggregated clinical data will be made available to you, be extremely cautious about moving forward.

Standardization of Technology

The ACO might require you to convert from your current paper or electronic system to a specified EHR. If so, be sure you know what costs you would incur, how much practice disruption you could expect, and how the ACO would support your practice financially and otherwise in making the change and in adopting the appropriate practice workflows and processes.

Even if the ACO does not require you to change your recordkeeping system, be sure to ask how your practice is expected to integrate into the data aggregation and reporting infrastructure, what support the ACO will offer, and so on.