ACO's: What are the benefits of Accountable Care Organizations?

By Brooke Strickland

There is a lot to digest with the new Affordable Care Act becoming law. With the law come several rules and policies specifically related to patients on Medicare and how they access healthcare through Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). ACOs occupy just seven pages of the Affordable Care Act yet are one of the most discussed provisions.

ACOs will help healthcare providers work alongside each other and more effectively communicate amongst each other to treat patients, whether it be in a hospital, long-term care facility, or in an office setting. And for ACOs that meet the standards of quality care while decreasing healthcare costs, they will be given incentives through the Medicare Shard Savings Program. [1]

The GOAL: Seamless, high quality patient-centered care for Medicare patients 100% of the time.

The need for coordination of care for Medicare patients is clear. Patients on Medicare often receive care from different physicians and through communication breakdown and the poor coordination of the specifics and details of a patient's history. Patients misdiagnosed or treated incorrectly drive up the cost of healthcare for everyone. Accompanied by improved coordination between providers through ACOs, Medicare patients will receive better care and in turn, costs should go down. In fact, current analyses are showing that Medicare could save more than $960 million over three years. [2]Medicare patients will also have access to free preventive services, including wellness checkups ñ a valuable part of what it means to obtain the best in care.

How will quality improvement be measured?

Quality patient care and shared savings that a provider can obtain from the government is directly connected to five standards of patient care:

  • Patient/caregiver experience
  • Care co-ordination
  • Patient safety
  • Preventive health
  • At-risk population/frail elderly health

With ACOs, patients will have more control over their health decisions ñ they will work as partners with their doctors to find the best decision for their specific situation. Patients will have access to doctor's quality care standard record, have the choice to pick a doctor within their list of providers or outside of the ACO, and in the end, receive a higher level of care.


[1] "Accountable Care Organizations: Improving Care Coordination for People with Medicare." July 5, 2012. Accessed July 5, 2012.

[2] "Accountable Care Organizations: Improving Care Coordination for People with Medicare." July 5, 2012. Accessed July 5, 2012.