Ask these questions before joining an ACO

Published on: 

Where should you start when considering whether to join an ACO? How about with these questions?

New Orleans-It’s not necessarily appropriate for every practice to become part of an accountable care organization (ACO), but if you’re trying to decide whether to join one, Neil Kirschner, PhD, senior associate for regulatory and insurer affairs for the American College of Physicians (ACP), recommends asking yourself the following questions:

How would I be represented on the organization’s governing body?

What would the ACO require of my practice as far as administrative and organizational tasks? For instance, what data would I need to share, and what committees would I need to join?

What kind of practice transformation would the organization expect regarding electronic health record system implementation, case management, access, etc.? Will the ACO offer any financial or in-kind assistance in this transformation?

What shared savings can the ACO reasonably expect to earn, and how would those shared savings be distributed?

Does the potential exist for losses to accrue that I would have to pay back? What maximum risk would I face?

Would I be adequately protected from penalties related to federal and state laws?

Kirschner gave the advice during a session at the ACP’s annual meeting here.

If negotiating a contract with an ACO, make your meeting of ACO standards contingent on the timely receipt of data from the organization, advised Randall Curnow Jr., MD, MBA, FACP, FACHE, FACPE, another speaker at the same session. He is executive vice president and chief medical officer of Tennessee-based Summit Medical Group, which serves patients in 10 counties through 220 physicians in 55 offices, as well as five hospitals, and has a wholly owned subsidiary that is an ACO.