A new blog posting in Health Affairs congratulates the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for its progress in launching accountable care organizations, and then examines the challenges that face the agency and its ACOs.

The author is Steven Lieberman, a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institute, with 30 years experience at CMS, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, a private and public HMO, and an academic medical center.

The challenges ahead start with the ability of CMS to provide usable data on a timely basis to ACO and non-ACO providers, Lieberman notes. “Reporting these data to several hundreds ACOs for several million beneficiaries with minimal time tags and in a usable format involves CMS undertaking new tasks on a rather large scale.”

Appropriate handling and use of new data streams won’t be easy for the ACOs, either, he adds. “Successful ACOs will have the capacity to generate and analyze meaningful reports, incorporating CMS data as well as data the ACO and its providers may generate directly (such as lab values or clinical information drawn from electronic medical records). The reports will provide valuable information allowing ACOs to track performance and identify areas for improvement. ACO systems and leadership will need to translate the information into specific actions targeted to improve performance and correct weaknesses.”

The Health Affairs blog, “Congratulations…And Now the Real Work on ACOs Begins,” is available here.

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