Improving Population Health — An ACO Tenet Undefined?

As accountable care organizations strive to achieve the triple aim of lowering healthcare costs while improving quality of care and population health, the definition of "improving population health" remains unclear, according to a viewpoint piece published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The article, penned by Douglas J. Nobel, MD, MPH; and Lawrence P. Casalino, MD, PhD; researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, argues that a clear definition of what it means to improve population health is necessary for ACOs to be effective.

According to the authors, most ACOs take the phrase to mean medically improving the health of a specific patient population assigned to an ACO. However, others have assigned the term a broader definition: to improve the health of an entire geographic population.

The second definition can present problems to ACOs, as it is not clear if the organizations have the resources necessary to improve the health of an entire geographic population. Therefore, an established, agreed-upon definition of population health is necessary.

"When population health is clearly defined, it becomes possible to think more specifically about what needs to be done to improve it, whether and how ACOs can help, the types of organizations with which ACOs will need to cooperate and the incentives that ACOs — and other organizations — will need to improve the health of the population in their geographic area," Dr. Casalino said in a news release.

More Articles on ACOs:

ACO Coalitions Key to Population Wellness
3 ACO Readiness Strategies
19 Questions to Ask on the Road to Accountable Care

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