While information technology will help accountable care organizations cut costs, many providers question whether current-generation technology can get the job done, according to a report released this week, co-authored by Salt Lake City-based healthcare intelligence firm Leavitt Partners and Orem, Utah-based KLAS Research.
The report is based on survey research and analysis of 324 ACOs and interviews with 57 physician leaders and health executives.
"Many existing solutions, such as [electronic medical records], have yet to be fully adapted to ACO needs," the report's authors write. "Many providers wonder if there is a one-stop vendor that can meet all ACO needs. The current answer appears to be 'no,' but there are some vendors who see themselves as nearing turnkey status."
The report divides ACOs into three categories based on their current commitment to the model: those who are cautious and just starting out (dubbed "toe dippers"); those who are publicly embracing the model and may participate in multiple ACOs ("mainstream"); and those who remain ahead of the ACO curve ("forerunners").
Of the 324 ACOs, roughly 65 percent fall into the mainstream category, 20 percent are toe dippers and 15 percent are forerunners.
The toe dippers, generally mid-sized hospitals, tend to use EMRs and data analytics tools, warehousing and business intelligence. Mainstreamers, most of which are physician groups, typically use ambulatory EMRs and specialty solutions for population health management. Forerunners, mostly larger integrated delivery systems, often use enterprise EMRs and homegrown analytics tools.
According to the report's authors, most ACO health IT strategies are "labor intensive." That means ACOs are more likely to influence which EMR vendors the industry uses. "Faced with the time, trouble and cost of a new EMR, providers choose systems they see as preparing them for future changes in healthcare," the authors write.
A report published earlier this month by EMR vendor Greenway Medical Technologies found that despite physician distrust of ACOs, more than 20 percent of physicians surveyed chose at least one ACO partner, with another 60 percent indicating that they were considering an ACO partnership.
A survey by business publisher Healthcare Intelligence Network in June found that the number of ACOs at that time had doubled over a 12-month span. The growth was attributed to the launch of the Pioneer ACO Program in January and the Medicare Shared Savings Program in April.