An Accountable Care Organization (ACO) is a group of community physicians, hospitals and other clinicians that come together to coordinate care as a community to deliver higher quality and improved stewardship of the health care dollar. Patients who seek care from an ACO benefit from this advanced care delivery model in a number of ways:
1. Increased access to care. Advanced care delivery models, such as ACOs and patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs), are designed to address the growing problem of access to health care in the U.S. The ACO model supports having a PCMH at the hub of care delivery for increased access to care in six critical areas: after-hours access, same/next day appointments, providing patients with a personal clinician, telephone appointments, secure electronic messaging and patient portals, and population management technology.
2. Improved communication and coordination. ACOs promote coordinated care delivered by advancing the concept of a care team. Under this model, all of your providers communicate about your conditions and coordinate to address all of your health care needs holistically. The ACO model also emphasizes complete communication between patients and providers.
3. The possibility of fewer medical tests. Since ACOs are based on a pay-for-quality model, rather than a fee-for-service model, providers are less likely to order unnecessary or duplicative tests. Patients may also experience fewer medical tests due to the increased coordination and communication within an ACO, as doctors and hospitals working together in an ACO will share records of tests previously performed.
4. Less paperwork. In an ACO, all providers have access to your electronic health records, so you should have less paperwork to fill out before seeing providers.
5. Single point of contact. You will have one member of the care team to contact with all of your questions. Depending on the ACO, you may be able to ask questions via an online patient portal, making the process even easier.