ACOs' health IT capabilities remain rudimentary

Accountable Care Organizations have made little progress in improving their health IT capabilities in the past year, according to a new survey by the eHealth Initiative.

Despite their dependence on data to improve care, most ACOs--76 percent--do not participate in a health information exchange at an enterprise, community, or state level.

Not surprisingly, larger organizations (those with 100+ physicians) and ACOs in operation at least 18 months have better IT capabilities and are better able to use data effectively. Many organizations, though, are still operating at a basic level.

The improvements associated with health IT have been limited and provider satisfaction is falling. Blending data, putting solutions into practice and integrating them into workflow are growing challenges, the report states.

Most ACOs continue to use basic health IT systems for documentation and coordination of care, with few advanced capabilities such as population health, revenue, or customer relationship management systems. Few ACOs report using secure messaging (38 percent), referral management tools (36 percent), phone-based telemedicine (34 percent), or video-based telemedicine (26 percent.)

Despite the lack of participation in HIEs, all the organizations surveyed said access to data from external organizations is a significant challenge.

Concern about cost and return on investment has grown significantly since the previous survey, from 14 percent in early 2013 to more than 90 percent in 2014.

Ninety percent also see interoperability and workflow integration as a significant challenge, up from 50 percent in 2013; while 66 percent report being unable to staff appropriately, compared with 33 percent who said so last year.

While more mature ACOs are using data more effectively, a previous survey found organizations are faced with more data sources than ever. Of the 98 healthcare organizations that responded to the survey, 39 percent said they use between 11 and 50 disparate electronic platforms or interfaces to collect and analyze their data, such as electronic health records; 15 percent said they use more than 100 systems.

The Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Pacific Business Group on Health recently released a toolkit for ACOs of lessons learned to help them achieve meaningful and measurable gains in care, as well as lowered costs.

To learn more:
- check out the survey results