With dual URAC accreditations, Arkansas Health Network can guide others, CEO says

Little Rock-based Arkansas Health Network recently became the first clinically integrated network to attain dual accreditation from URAC in clinical integration and employer-based population health. Now it wants to be a model for others. 

AHN President and CEO Bob Sarkar told Becker's these accreditations offer a "third-party gold seal of approval for our preferred core competencies of improving quality, controlling costs, and improving patient and provider experiences."

Established by its parent company — Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health — in 2014, the physician-led network set out to develop a transformative healthcare delivery model that would benefit providers and consumers across Arkansas. AHN currently manages more than 134,000 patient lives and has more than 3,600 participating providers and saved payers more than $58 million since its inception, according to Mr. Sarkar. 

The accreditations for both Clinical Integration version 1.0 and Employer-Based Population Health version 1.0 went into effect March 1 and are valid through March 1, 2026. The process began in July 2021. AHN was evaluated on 55 standards: 35 in clinical integration and 20 in employer-based population health. 

Mr. Sarkar said AHN sought these accreditations for several reasons. From a clinical standpoint, it validates excellence in utilization of evidence-based solutions. From a quality standpoint, it demonstrates a commitment to continuous quality and process improvement. It also has strategic and financial advantages. 

"It gives us a competitive edge not only in the care delivery sector of the industry, but also from a payer's perspective," Mr. Sarkar said. "Payers understand the language of URAC. We've gone and learned that language."

This achievement offers a chance for AHN to serve as a model, Mr. Sarkar said. That begins within CommonSpirit Health, which operates in 21 states. "We intend to ensure that our own family members, so to speak, are also replicating this and they're learning from us," he said. 

There are also plans to develop educational tools for the industry. These tools will allow others to learn how AHN is managing care, quality and costs for employers and payers in Arkansas, along with how to take higher levels of risk while continuing to be financially sustainable, Mr. Sarkar said.

"With our dual accreditations, I would humbly say that we are the trailblazers of collaborating with URAC in translating our core competencies to the employer and payer communities," he Sarkar said. "This approach can be easily replicated in the healthcare industry. That's what we've created. It is of public interest to us all." 

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