Commentary by John Paris, MD
I’m sure most of you are pretty tired of the “alphabet soup” coming from the government about healthcare: PPACA, ACA, HIP 2.0 and the like. I have one more for you: ACO, also known as Accountable Care Organization. Simply put, an ACO works toward the so-called triple aim:
- Better care for patients
- Better health for our community
- Lower total cost of care.
Several local health care organizations, including Riverview Health, have recently become part of an ACO to better serve those who are 65 and older and are covered by traditional Medicare.
For most people, the impact will be minimal. You’ll still be able to see your own physician. You’ll still be entitled to all of your Medicare benefits. You’ll be encouraged to obtain your annual wellness exam and, from there, you’ll be encouraged to take part in all of the preventive care services—such as mammograms, colon examinations and diabetes management—that Medicare provides. By filling in these “gaps in care” and better aligning your overall health care, we hope to achieve the triple aim.
Initially, ACOs will focus most of their attention on those who are at higher risk for illnesses than others. This increased focus includes hiring care coordinators who’ll work alongside physicians to better customize care for people who are part of the ACO. This also includes help in simplifying medication treatment and use of generic drugs, as well as making prescription fills easier. All of which is done at the direction of the individual’s personal physician.
For those of you who’ve received your ACO letter, you do not need to do anything else. For those of you who choose not to participate in the data-sharing portion of the program, you have instructions on how to “opt out.” We’re excited to participate with patients and other health care organizations on this newest initiative as we work to improve your care and ultimately, the health of our community.