How ACOs can improve patient engagement

Although Medicare's Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) have improved quality and netted savings, they must improve their patient engagement strategies, according to a Brookings Institution blog post.   

Research indicates that ACOs are having difficulty raising awareness among patients that have been assigned to an ACO--in fact, some patients don't even realize they're in an ACO. So patients may seek care outside their network. 

"There are no incentives for patients to remain loyal to an ACO when the attribution process does not reflect patient preferences," writes S. Lawrence Kocot, a visiting fellow in Brookings' Economic Studies program.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could take several steps to improve the Medicare Shared Savings Program's patient engagement process, Kocot writes, including:

  • Financial incentives for beneficiaries, such as reduced deductibles or co-pays for remaining within the ACO network, or rebates or extra benefits for successful medication adherence.

  • Transitioning away from the current attribution model and toward a model under which beneficiaries can directly enroll in an ACO.

  • "Welcome" visits similar to those currently used by Medicare, during which patients can learn about the advantages of ACO membership and how to become more engaged within an ACO.

"Effectively engaging patients will require ACOs to think differently about what patient engagement really means," Kocot writes.

"The healthcare system will not be transformed without the patient; moreover, the real promise of ACOs--continuous improvements in quality and reduced costs--cannot be realized over the longer term without more active involvement of patients in their care."

To learn more:
- read the blog post