Q:What is an ACO and how does it benefit me?

A: An ACO, Accountable Care Organization, consists of healthcare providers that join a group to provide quality, coordinated, and cost effective healthcare services. These groups have evolved as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Health and Human Services reported a total program savings of more than $300 million from the 477 ACOs across the United States.

As a patient, you may have been notified that your doctor is now in an ACO. This is great news for you! Your doctor has joined a committed group of specialists, hospitals, laboratories, rehabilitation centers and home health agencies striving for excellence in your care; allowing you to focus on your health. The ACO shares information so you do not have to remember your test results, medical conditions, prescriptions, etc. The information shared is the most current and accurate about your health condition and history. Less time will be spent filling out the same information at different offices; no more wondering if you remember to tell your primary care physician what the specialist said, or vice versa.

You will also see a reduction in the amount of duplicate tests performed.

Patrick Conway, deputy administrator for innovation and quality and chief medical officer for CMS said, “Accountable Care Organizations are improving quality of care and spending dollars more wisely. These new initiatives place patients at the center of a coordinated care delivery system and give providers the tools to achieve better outcomes.”

The Affordable Care Act also requires wellness and prevention programs, smoking cessation, weight management, stress management, physical fitness, nutrition, heart disease prevention, healthy lifestyle support and diabetes prevention, allowing you the patient to be proactive with your health rather than reactive once an illness happens. The whole momentum behind changing to this system is to become actively aware of your condition through education and to have highly efficient cost- effective quality of care.

Jamie Patterson, LPN, RAC-CT, QAC, is a certified resident assessment coordinator and quality assurance performance improvement specialist at the Homestead Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Frankford.