Atrius Health’s CEO reveals how physicians contribute to ACO success

The secrets to running a successful accountable care organization (ACO) are hard to come by. That’s because what may prove successful for one healthcare organization may not work for another. One easy way to keep an ACO in business is reducing hospital readmissions--though that’s still a tough nut to crack.

Thoughtful patient handoffs and follow-up with a primary care doctor within a week of a hospital admission go a long way towards reducing readmission rates. What also helps is post-discharge medication reconciliation that’s accurate and clear, writes Steven Strongwater, M.D., president and CEO at Newton, Massachusetts-based Atrius Health, in a recent commentary for NEJM Catalyst.

This matters because between 12 percent to 19 percent of his practice’s Medicare patients admitted to the hospital are readmitted within 30 days. Strongwater emphasizes that it’s not just that hospitals need to align processes with physician practices--but that these workflows must be hardwired into their electronic health records as well.

Shared decision-making between hospitalists and primary care providers also contributes to Atrius Health’s ACO success. It’s because of the strong relationships that his practice’s providers have built with their patients that these primary care doctors can contribute in a meaningful way to discussions about end-of-life care planning and managing patients’ chronic conditions, according to Strongwater. Another benefit for hospitals? Shared decision-making also improves training for residents.

Hospitals also need to be more transparent about what they’re charging patients for certain procedures. That’s because lack of transparency is hitting patients in their wallets--and leads to increased frustration with the healthcare system. Competitive pricing and transparency can hold the keys to success in terms of medical decision-making, managing healthcare costs and referrals among providers, he writes.