We congratulate all the ACOs recently named by U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
As you start operations we know you are focused on attribution lists, beneficiary data sharing letters, preparing for claims data, quality metrics capture and explaining what an ACO is all about to providers, staff and the community. The good news is that all of the new activity is applicable to other ACO and population health initiatives. And you will soon realize that the design and implementation of an ACO takes more time and talent than your team anticipates.
For ACO leaders, we also recommend a strong focus on the following critical areas whose importance and depth are often underestimated.
- Ensuring that the ACO is more than a project for your sponsoring organization; it is important to recognize that you are leading the development of a new way of doing business, building a new culture of accountability and you will need to
establish this agenda.
- Setting targets for what you are trying to achieve and ensuring that leadership is behind the targets.
- Establishing a dashboard to tell you whether the ACO is achieving its targets and creating savings with the various initiatives that you implement, i.e. are you producing the expected ROI?
- Being serious about achieving the targets by ensuring the participants understand the actions they need to take and then holding them accountable.
- Being prepared to make course corrections. While you’ll need a roadmap and targets to know where you are going, you will also need to know how to make adjustments when circumstances arise that require changes in the initial plan.
A lesson we have learned is that the implementation and operationalization phase of an ACO needs a lot more support early in the change process than most ACO leaders initially anticipate. That support involves more time, energy and creativity and not necessarily more products, vendors and IT, etc.