Nurses bring coordinated care expertise to ACOs

With coordinated care at the heart of accountable care organizations (ACO), nurses are applauding the Department of Health & Human Services' (HHS) final rule released last month, anticipating more opportunity to improve care.

Expanding the role of nurses will be beneficial to ACO success, as nurses are proficient in wellness, teamwork, and health education, according to American Nurses Association's (ANA) senior policy fellow Cynthia Haney, in a McKnight's Long-term Care News & Assisted Living article yesterday.

The final rule gives nurses a more important role in delivering accountable care, as they will be acknowledged as primary care providers and care coordinators, as well as leaders in quality assurance and process improvement initiatives within ACOs.

And as the industry shifts toward rewarding quality, nurses can take advantage of their patient experience, patient safety, and preventive health expertise, said Marna K. Flaherty-Robb, chief nursing information officer for the University of Michigan Health System in a article earlier this week.

Transitional care is a main factor of ACOs--another area where nurses can excel, evidenced by the University of California, San Francisco, which found that transitional care programs with nurse coordinators helped reduce readmissions of older heart failure patients by 30 percent and helped save Medicare $1 million per year.

"Nurses are skilled and compassionate in shepherding clients through difficult periods of vulnerability where complex coordination and communication is necessary and outreach may be warranted," Flaherty-Robb said.

Nevertheless, the ANA still maintains HHS could have gone even further to realize the value that nurses bring to ACO implementation.

"Care coordination is a core foundation of professional nursing practice, reflecting interdisciplinary communication skills, evaluation, judgment and decision-making by nurses, and is not achieved by reliance on health information technology alone," the organization said in a statement last month.

To learn more:
- read the McKnight's article
- here's the article
- read the ANA press release (.pdf)