3 lessons learned from MSSP ACOs in performance year 1

Although accountable care organizations participating in the Medicare Shared Savings program have produced mixed results, with fewer than one in five producing shared savings, Navigant Center for Healthcare Research and Policy Analysis has identified some of the commonalities of the ACOs that achieved success in the first performance year and also identified some of the major challenges these organizations faced in their first year.

Here are three lessons for MSSP ACOs, according to the report.

1. Early movers have the advantage. The successful ACOs are "playing a long ball," according to the report. The organizations believe all risk will eventually be shifted to local providers, and they realized the importance of integration to improve health outcomes, even if risk is not shared with payers. These early movers realize their ACO strategy is central to their long-term solvency.

2. Assessing risk is key. It requires a significant capital investment for an organization to create an effective population health infrastructure. However, it is a necessary investment before beginning the journey as an ACO to measure performance risk. Just because physicians sign up to participate in an ACO does not mean it will be successful, especially when the population is composed of high risk patients.

3. Managing physician expectations is a challenge. Many physicians are accustomed to individual production-based income, and it's difficult for them to transition into the team-based compensation arrangements of ACOs. In addition, with a small percentage of MSSP ACOs producing shared savings, many physicians might be disappointed with the results.

More articles on ACOs:

Aetna, Seton Health Alliance collaborate for accountable care
UnitedHealthcare establishes ACOs with Advocate Health Care, Illinois Health Partners
3 more Pioneer ACOs exit program

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