The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced that 89 new Accountable Care Organizations will be joining the Medicare Shared Savings Program starting on January 1, 2015.

With these latest additions, a total of 405 ACOs will be participating in the Shared Savings Program next year, serving more than 7.2 million beneficiaries. And, when you add the 19 Pioneer ACOs, a total of 424 ACOs in 2015 will be serving over 7.8 million beneficiaries.

Since ACOs first began participating in the program in early 2012, thousands of healthcare providers have signed on to participate in the program, according to CMS. In 2014 alone, existing Shared Savings Program ACOs added almost 17,000 healthcare providers, and the 89 new ACOs will bring approximately 23,000 additional physicians and other providers into the ACO program starting January 1. A list of the 89 new ACOs can be found here.

Nonetheless, a recent survey of 62 ACOs of various types across the country by eHealth Initiative and Premier Inc. found that they are facing huge burdens. All responding ACOs reported having difficulty with data interoperability, 83 percent were struggling with integrating analytics into workflows, and more than 90 percent said the cost and return on investments for information technologies is a “crippling concern.”

Further, a report prepared for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT by Robinson & Associates Consulting LLC found that while providers are focused on “how to unlock value in the healthcare system and succeed in accountable care models by improving care coordination across organizations, interoperability challenges between electronic systems continue to inhibit progress.” At the center of the problem are electronic health records that impact ACOs in particular, according to the report, where integration across participating providers’ EHR systems is a key strategy for meeting cost and quality goals.

And, although accountable care models have offered providers access to claims data to inform care, such as Medicare claims data shared with participants in the Shared Savings and Pioneer programs, the report also reveals that few ACOs have access to comprehensive, reliable claims data needed to support effective risk stratification across their entire patient populations.

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