How to Foster Physician Buy-In for ACOs

In a survey released earlier this year by Merritt Hawkins for The Physicians Foundation, many physicians expressed that they would be reluctant to participate in an accountable care organization. In fact, less than 10 percent of the surveyed physicians believed that ACOs are likely to enhance the quality and decrease the cost of healthcare. If physicians do not believe the new healthcare delivery model will be effective, it may be difficult to get them to participate whole-heartedly, and physician involvement is extremely important in the success of integrated systems.

So what happens when a hesitant physician is part of an organization that is contemplating becoming an ACO or is already on its way there? Mike Detjen, the senior vice president of service offerings for Arcadia Solutions, a healthcare consulting firm, says it is possible to get hesitant physicians to buy-in to an ACO — it will just take some effort from the C-suite.

Communication is key

The easiest, most effective way to get physicians feeling confident about the ACO model is to communicate with them. "It's about how executives define and communicate a rationale for why [the hospital] is doing an ACO," Mr. Detjen says. Many hospitals are simply telling physicians that they need to make the switch to accountable care without any context, he says. "Executives need to invest in a really good communication strategy."

The first thing hospital executives should emphasize is that becoming an ACO and providing coordinated care will be better for patients. Then, executives should express to physicians that the hospital will support them in making the transition to integrated care.

"Share how [the hospital] is going to make it easy for a physician to work with the ACO," he says.

For instance, if there will be additional resources available to ACO physicians, such as new technology and care coordinators that will help with certain patients, physicians should know about them. "Make sure physicians understand it is not just more work for them; there will be more resources there for them," Mr. Detjen says.

The second piece of information that hospital executives should be clear about is the role that data will play for physicians in the new care model. "I believe physicians are distrustful of any data that comes out," Mr. Detjen says. "So executives need to get physicians comfortable with data and measurement."

Therefore, in order to foster physician buy-in, executives must be transparent about where the data will come from and how it will be used to measure the quality of care provided by each physician.

Also, executives need to be clear about how the data will ultimately affect physician compensation. "Executives need to get physicians used to living in a world where care is now quantified," Mr. Detjen says. He says that providing healthcare is deeply personal for a provider, so executives cannot trivialize this step.

Once physicians become confident in how and why the transition to an ACO will be executed, the organization will achieve better results. "It is a physician by physician inflection point you have to work through, but once you get there, it is incredibly powerful."

More Articles on Accountable Care Organizations:

Primary Care Physician ACO Participation Expected to Grow Rapidly
Study: Health Plans Embracing ACO Model
Pre-ACO Checklist for CFOs

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