HIT stakeholders: Technology critical to 'Next Generation' ACO models

Technology will play an integral role in deployment of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' "Next Generation Accountable Care Organization" model announced Tuesday, several health IT stakeholder organizations say.

The model "encourages greater coordination and closer care relationships between ACO providers/suppliers and beneficiaries," according to CMS Deputy Administrator for Innovation and Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway. For example, additional coverage of telehealth and post-discharge home services were announced as tools that will be made available to participating providers.

The application also asks potential participants to share information about their use of electronic health records and their progress in the Meaningful Use incentive program, particularly Stage 2.

College of Healthcare Information Management Executives President and CEO Russell Branzell (pictured), in an interview with FierceHealthIT, calls the model the next logical step in the payment and patient management system that IT should be ready to support.

"Talking to hospital CEOs and CIOs, this is something that's been on their radar for a while," Branzell says. "Generally, everyone knew this was coming. Hopefully someday we'll get to a wellness model, but this is that next step out of fee-for-service to some level of risk capitation."

The more meaningful technology adoption can be encouraged, Branzell adds, the more ease there will be in making such changes.

"This is the reason we've been on this journey now for five-plus years," he says. "We're probably only halfway down this path--at best halfway down--to get to a point of truly automating this industry."

Regarding the expanded telehealth benefits, Branzell says that the good part is, the technology has existed for more than a decade.

"The concept of technology readiness for telehealth and telemedicine is not the issue here, but rather encouragement to move to a payment reform model and a patient care flow model that can utilize that technology," he says. "Really, you have to chase the dollar on this one, unfortunately, and that is, why would any caregivers work their tail off in a telemedicine model in which they wouldn't get reimbursed?"

Branzell adds that, ultimately, these new models could cause the care industry to shift to the point that it would be reflected in medical licensing across multiple states.

Joe Peterson, president of Specialists on Call and chairman of the Alliance for Connected Care, also believes the newly announced model will be critical to the spread of telehealth.

"It represents a major victory for patients and the broader telehealth community, which has been gathering evidence of telehealth's benefits for decades," Peterson says in an announcement. "CMS has now acknowledged the vital role of telehealth in advancing the future of healthcare ... We urge the agency to take the next step and lift these restrictions under the Medicare Shared Savings Program."

To learn more:
- here's Peterson's statement