Study: ACOs make strides in medication optimization, but barriers remain

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Researchers found that more ACOs are involving pharmacists in patient care.

Accountable care organizations can optimize medications to meet quality standards, but some still face barriers to such efforts, according to a new study.

Researchers from Leavitt Partners and the National Pharmaceutical Council found that more ACOs are involving pharmacists in patient care and many have expanded their use of generic medications. However, issues such as lack of reimbursement for pharmacists’ services and problems isolating the cost benefits of medication optimization can prevent such measures from expanding.

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The researchers ranked 49 ACOs on a medication practices inventory (MPI) score from 1 to 10. Three scored an eight or higher, 45 between a four and a 7.9 and just one between a zero and 3.9. These numbers suggest that ACOs are doing more to embrace the role the medication optimization can play in reaching financial and quality metric goals, according to the researchers.

"ACOs recognize that, along with the changing payment and delivery environment, they need to make changes as well," Kimberly Westrich, NPC vice president for health services research and study co-author, said in announcement.

"Today, so much of how ACOs are measured and reimbursed depends on outcomes directly affected by medication use. Making these changes takes time and effort, but we're already seeing a significant move in the right direction."

ACOs are doing more to educate patients on their medication alternatives, according to the study. This is valuable progress, as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is considering patient education as a potential quality measure in the future.

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The researchers also concluded that more ACOs are using new technologies to identify potential adverse events, alert doctors to gaps in preventative care and electronically transmit prescriptions. However, poor interoperability can prevent ACOs from fully embracing these optimization trends, according to the study.