Survey: Health IT use still lagging for Accountable Care Organizations

ACOs need to focus on records compatibility, among other challenges, to increase its use of IT.

According to a survey recently published by the eHealthInitiative, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are struggling to make significant IT improvements. The "vast majority" of ACOs (76 percent of 62 respondents) are said to not use a health information exchange to improve care. Healthcare IT consulting needs to be a part of the conversation for those organizations that are behind in implementation.

The survey examined several factors that impact ACO activity, including the way that they receive funding. Nearly 50 percent of ACOs were found to be supported by medical groups and health systems, with the latter responsible for more than 30 percent of entities. Most ACO's were also found to serve between 10,001 and 50,000 patients, with more than 500 physicians on staff.

While the findings do represent a need to improve, the survey also found some encouraging statistics about IT adoption. Even as an "adolescent health IT infrastructure" experiences challenges, data suggests a predictable response pattern.

"Once ACOs reach 18 months of operation, they report substantially more advanced capabilities, data used for analytics, and performance improvements associated with health IT – but also more acute barriers and challenges," the study said. Some of these challenges include data access issues, which affect "100 percent of ACOs," and a lack of risk management support.

Writing for Forbes, Dr. Robert Pearl recently touched upon other problems that are facing ACOs, including bad management and leadership structures. He says that part of the difficulty in embracing new IT comes from incompatibility between different platforms used by physician and hospital groups.

Members of groups like this need consultants that address the most significant problem areas. Since long-term care is a relatively small component of the staff of ACOs, a long term care consultant should be used to make sure these services are operating correctly.

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