3 Ways to Balance Coordination and Competition in Healthcare

Two goals in healthcare — coordinating care to improve patient outcomes and maintaining competition to reduce costs — are sometimes in conflict, according to a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine.

For example, one of the purposes of accountable care organizations is to bring together providers across the continuum of care to more efficiently serve patients. However, ACOs also raise antitrust concerns due to the associated partnerships among large organizations.

"Well-integrated provider networks may promote coordinated care that improves the allocation of health care resources, but they are likely to undermine competitive pressures to keep prices down while maintaining high quality," the authors wrote.

They proposed three ways policymakers can work toward a balance of coordination and competition in healthcare:

1. Look for opportunities to improve both competition and coordination, such as health IT.

2. Consider the coordination-competition tradeoff when enforcing antitrust laws in healthcare.

3. Examine the effects of an initiative in one healthcare sector on providers overall.

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