Special report: The future of accountable care organizations

By Zack Budryk

Accountable care organizations (ACOs) emphasize quality-based reimbursement rather than fee-for-service, an approach essential in a new, post-Affordable Care Act healthcare environment that rewards and provides incentives for outcomes rather than volume.

And ACOs show early signs of success. In 2012, Pioneer ACOs and ACOs established as part of the Medicare's Shared Savings Program generated nearly $400 million in savings according to preliminary data, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said in a statement released last week. And a January study published in Health Affairs shows a significant drop in inpatient use between 2010 and 2012, a timeline that correlates with the wider proliferation of ACOs.

Not all the news is good, however. Last summer, nine Pioneer ACOs left the program, even amid positive reports from CMS on both savings and quality metrics demonstrated in the first year of the initiative.

So what's next for ACOs? What's worked thus far, what hasn't and what is the plan going forward? FierceHealthcare spoke to experts and professionals in the ACO field to get their take.

Special report: The future of accountable care organizations