By Kate Goonan, MD Advance Laboratory
Eye on Quality
Accountable care organization (ACO) is the latest buzz phrase to hit the healthcare executive lexicon. The concept is so hot yet so poorly understood that a cartoon mocking our ignorance about it, “In Search of an Accountable Care Organization,” has gone viral on YouTube.
The cartoon depicts a healthcare executive at a help desk requesting information about how to create an ACO. His board wants one; when he admits his ignorance about healthcare reform and accountable care and what this all really means, the helper tells the executive, “You really are quite clueless.”
New Playing Field
After the laughter subsides, most healthcare executives experience mounting anxiety about the challenges that lie ahead. We are all feeling a bit clueless right now. As one leader described recently, “It’s like we have been playing baseball for about 50 years. We learned the rules and got really good at baseball. We know how to win at this game. Now we come out onto the field, and the game is soccer.”
Moving to accountability for patient outcomes and cost is going to be the new end point and it is, indeed, a big game changer. Today, hospitals win by filling beds; in the future, we will be rewarded for emptying beds of patients that will not need acute care because they are getting state-of-the-art preventative and chronic care and engaging as partners in building healthier lifestyles.
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