Strong leadership, reliable healthcare coordination, and first-rate information technology are key for academic medical centers seeking to establish successful accountable care organizations, according to a Johns Hopkins Medicine study published in the journal Academic Medicine.

Led by Scott Berkowitz, M.D., medical director for accountable care for Johns Hopkins Medicine and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the study looked at the nation’s first 253 Medicare ACOs, paying particular attention to the 20 percent established at academic medical centers (AMCs).

Berkowitz and co-author Jennifer Pahira wrote that, while the first wave of ACOs are generating data, there isn’t yet a road map for AMC/ACO success. Using lessons learned from the nation’s first ACOs, Berkowitz and Pahira identify the key areas that academic institutions must address when establishing new ACOs.

The authors found that, when establishing an ACO, AMCs first need strong leadership and a commitment to invest in organizational structures and governance to support ACO success. Berkowitz and Pahira say leadership needs to involve both primary care and specialty providers in planning and operations.

“It’s important for academic medical centers to use their resources wisely when making the transition,” Berkowitz says. “Effective ACOs use strategies that align quality and costs from the start.”

Information technology, according to the study, can also spell success or failure for new ACOs. “There has to be an electronic medical record system robust enough to analyze and assess quality and safety issues,” Berkowitz says. “It’s important to quickly identify areas where changes are needed.”

The coordination of care across care teams, from inpatient to outpatient, is a third success factor, according to the study. Such coordination, says Berkowitz, requires thorough communications with patients and their families, as well as partnerships with local communities.


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