Improving Accountable Care Organizations requires a detailed look at each of the members and what they bring to the ACO as a whole. When hospitals are involved, the organization could expect benefits they wouldn't otherwise receive.
Incorporating hospitals may require the ACO to anticipate certain costs and plan to mitigate them for a balanced budget. If they have the right resources, ACOs could stand to reap the rewards of keeping larger facilities involved.
A Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice study looked at some of the notable trends surrounding hospital participation in ACOs. The researchers found that large hospitals from urban areas were "more likely to have an ACO contract," and that all but 15 percent of those that did take part in an ACO were "short-term acute care hospitals."
With hospitals involved, participants could see a greater opportunity to keep costs under control, although the release noted that a variety of providers need to take part for this to be possible.
This claim parallels the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' interest in promoting new ACO performance measuring tactics. The agency is currently accepting comments on a proposal that would highlight regional spending among other benchmarks.
Michael Chernew pointed out multiple reasons that hospitals enhance ACOs in a recent article for Health Affairs Blog.
"First, hospitals may improve integration and coordination efficiencies between primary providers and specialists, and between hospital care and post-acute care," he wrote. "Second, hospitals have more access to capital, which facilitates data collection and infrastructure. Third, hospitals are large, heavily managed organizations which may help them develop programs to succeed in the new model."
To truly understand feasibility, hospitals may need strategic advisory planning from an appropriate hospital consultant. Such services can include surveys and analysis that gives organizations a firm ground to work off of in future planning.