Coordinated care, data-sharing help ACO partnership exceed quality goals

An accountable care organization (ACO) operated by a Wisconsin health system and UnitedHealthcare performed above care quality goals in the first year of the three-year partnership, due in large part to improved care coordination and data-sharing, according to a new report from UnitedHealthcare.

Integrated Health Network (IHN) and UnitedHealthcare established their ACO in 2013, and in 2014 it yielded results that were a substantial improvement over 2012. Not only did the ACO increase breast cancer screenings by nearly 7 percent last year, it also increased colorectal cancer screenings more than 5 percent and diabetic screenings by more than 4 percent. Unnecessary emergency room (ER) use also dropped by 4 percent.

The partnership between IHN and UnitedHealthcare also helped the ACO's population health management efforts through data-sharing, which enabled the two organizations to analyze care gaps and data on ER and inpatient care use and act accordingly. After looking at the data, IHN deployed its patient care navigators to patients post-discharge to help them deal with the care transition and connect with community resources.

"Our initial results with IHN clearly illustrate that aligning integrated data leads to better health and a better care experience," Dustin Hinton, president and CEO of UnitedHealthcare of Wisconsin, said in a statement. "We look forward to further enhancing our value-based relationship with IHN and helping its physicians transition to effective population health management."

Numerous ACOs have returned promising care outcomes results over the past few years; however, in many cases, this has not been enough to keep them financially sustainable. For example, earlier this year Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System confirmed it would exit Medicare's Pioneer ACO program after posting a loss two consecutive years despite above-average quality scores.

To learn more:
- read the research announcement

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