How a NJ health system bridges ACOs and population health management

A New Jersey health system's aggressive push into accountable care and population health management is already showing signs of success, according to Healthcare Informatics.

Atlantic Health System, a five-hospital system in Morristown, New Jersey, runs two active ACOs: Optimus Healthcare Partners and the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization. The ACOs' leaders have identified a series of quality measures for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), including readmission reduction, cost savings and reduced length of stay, with 61 area SNFs already making progress on all three.

Applying the ACO model to population health relies on three key tenets, according to Poonam Aliagh, M.D., an Atlantic employee who also serves as its corporate consultant:

  • Risk stratification of the patient population through data analytics to determine what patients need at both an individual and population level
  • Team-based care coordination involving nurses, community resource managers, pharmacists, social workers and discharge planners
  • A health information technology strategy that standardizes all elements of care into one platform and incorporates evidence-based care

"In my mind, our focus has been around those three, as we've been transforming office-based practices, and as we've transformed hospital care, and developed a post-discharge strategy," Alaigh told Healthcare Informatics.

The coordination has not been without challenges, Alaigh added. There is a sense of impatience for tangible results within the healthcare community, she said, even though those results tend to be slow and complex. 

Providers should not assume ACO status alone will improve their population health management. As of last October, only 25 percent of ACOs qualified for bonuses, indicating that ACO status was only part of substantial population health management, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Research published earlier this year also indicates Medicaid's ACOs could help states bridge their payment reform and population health goals.

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