ACO accreditation by NCQA strongly emphasizes health IT

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), which recently launched an accreditation program for accountable care organizations (ACOs), is emphasizing health IT in its requirements for accreditation.

Under the heading of "care management," one of seven domains in the program, NCQA requires ACOs to show that such an "organization collects, integrates and uses data from various sources for care management, performance reporting and identifying patients for population health programs." An organization also must "provide resources to patients and practitioners to support care management activities."

Another group of criteria, "care coordination and transitions," mandates that as an ACO, an "organization facilitates timely exchange of information between providers, patients and their caregivers to promote safe transitions."

"Performance reporting and quality improvement criteria" require that organizations "measure and publically report performance on clinical quality of care, patient experience and cost measures." Organizations also must "identify opportunities for improvement and bring together providers and stakeholders to collaborate on improvement initiatives."

NCQA, which also accredits health plans and recognizes patient-centered medical homes, is providing three accreditation levels for ACOs. The first recognizes organizations that are in the process of forming ACOs. Level 2 "designates organizations with the best chance of achieving the triple aim" of lowering costs, improving quality, and enhancing the patient experience. ACOs that achieve level 2 and also show strong performance or improvement on the triple aim goals may receive Level 3 accreditation.

Group practices, physician networks, hospital/provider partnerships, hospitals and their employed or contracted providers, publicly governed entities, and health plan-provider partnerships all can form ACOs that are eligible for NCQA accreditation.

The Billings (Mont.) Clinic and Minneapolis-based HealthPartners are the first organizations to commit to applying for NCQA ACO accreditation.

To learn more:
- read the NCQA announcement
- see NCQA's fact sheet on ACO accreditation