Report: ACOs expected to double by end of 2014

There's an estimated 500 accountable care organizations across the nation, and with a push for higher quality, cost-effective care, the number is expected to double by the end of 2014, according to a new report.

ACO participation has almost quadrupled since 2012 and three out of four responding hospitals say they have plans for an ACO model in 2014, according to Premier Inc.'s "Accountable Care Organization and Population Health Management Trends" report, which surveyed hospitals about their ACO plans once in 2012 and then again in 2013.

More than 75 percent of the executives from 101 hospitals across the country surveyed in the fall 2013 said they either implemented or planned to establish an ACO after 2015.

Non-rural hospitals and those with integrated delivery networks were more likely to participate in ACOs, with larger hospitals moving more quickly toward ACOs than smaller hospitals, the report said. Rural and standalone hospitals were least likely to participate.

Despite the expected growth, progression toward ACOs has been slower than anticipated. More than half of executives surveyed in spring 2012 predicted their hospitals would integrate an ACO by the end of 2013, but just one in four of those actually met that goal, the report states. Hospitals interested in establishing an ACO face two big challenges: determining the pace of adoption and forming the payer partnerships necessary to maintain financial stability, according to the report.

However, the report also found that hospitals are investing in infrastructure to better manage population health, including advanced health IT, lifestyle and wellness coaching, virtual care and patient-centered medical homes. Hospitals are also considerating other options, such as collaboration and alignment with larger systems, local external providers, local health departments, and public and private players in order to build a solid foundation for an ACO and population health improvement in the future, the report states.

ACO momentum faced a setback this summer, when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services confirmed nine hospitals dropped out of the experimental Pioneer program, stating seven did not produce savings and intend to apply to the alternative ACO model, the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), while two left the program completely, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the report (.pdf)