ACOs hone in on diseases

Some accountable care organizations (ACO) are taking chronic condition management a step further by focusing on particular costly diseases.

For example, Florida Blue (formerly Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida) and the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., last month launched an ACO dedicated to cancer patients, American Medical News reported. And the Accountable Kidney Care Collaborative under DaVita, which acquired the group practice HealthCare Partners, will focus on kidney disease.

"I would expect an increasing number of disease-specific accountable care ventures to develop over time," John Redding, manager at Indianapolis-based Blue Consulting Services, told amednews.

Although ACOs have already targeted chronic conditions under health reform, disease-specific ACOs can focus on cancer and end-stage renal disease--some of the most expensive populations who might get lost in a "traditional" ACO.

For instance, Medicare spent $32.9 billion on treatment for end-stage renal disease patients in 2010. But reducing hospitalizations, standardizing protocols and improving patient engagement could help control the costs and care of those patients.

For now, only a small number of entities are testing disease-specific ACOs, amednews noted.

According to a November report by Salt Lake City-based healthcare intelligence firm Leavitt Partners and Orem, Utah-based KLAS Research, 65 percent of the ACOs are "mainstream," with Medicare Shared Savings or commercial payer arrangements. A fifth are "toe-dippers," which are just getting started and unsure of a long-term strategy. And 15 percent are forerunners that were functioning before ACOs even were defined.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced more than a hundred Medicare ACOs. HHS said the organizations could save up to $940 million over four years if they meet quality measures.

For more information:
- read the amednews article

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