ACOs can tackle population health by being more ‘social’

Patient centered
The Commonwealth Care Alliance has identified several key areas that have allowed them to effectively provide whole-person health that can be applied to other accountable care organizations as well.

Accountable care organizations can incorporate a patient-centered vision by transforming into “social ACOs,” according to a new blog post.

The post, written by leaders at Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA) for the Health Affairs blog, notes that population health programs tackling the social determinants of health are rarely integral parts of ACOs’ approach and are often an afterthought.

However, CCA officials have identified several key areas that have allowed them to effectively provide whole-person health that can be applied to other ACOs, too.

RELATED: The road map to a strong population health program

The CCA, which is based in Massachusetts, offers a fully integrated health plan and care delivery system, which has allowed it to develop a more individualized approach to care, the post notes. Through their health plan, they can allocate “medical dollars” to treat social needs, such as purchasing air conditioners for patients with asthma, while also treating them medically.

ACOs that want to adopt similar strategies must first engage with their patient populations, according to the post. The CCA assigns each member a “care partner” whose job it is to build trust with the new member, and social supports are incorporated into patient care plans.

RELATED: ACOs aim to expand reach in community, improve population health

Medicare ACOs can also improve their population health initiatives by establishing clear geographical boundaries for care coordination and pushing for clear governance standards that include population health. A number of programs are seeking to expand their reach in population health, and a number are starting with high-risk patients or improving access to patient-centered medical homes.

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