News Feature | September 2, 2014

ACOs Moving Forward, But Lagging On Data, According To Survey

By Megan Williams, contributing writer

ACOs Lagging On Tech Adoption

The Affordable Care Organization (ACO) and its needs are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. As more physicians join, and communication and data become more important in facilitating positive patient and population health results, their technological needs will only grow.

For some insight into the direction ACOs are headed today, eHealth Initiative has recently released the results of its ACO survey, Keys To Hit Success For ACOs: Results From 2014 Survey.

The Growth Of ACOs

The survey found that the market is pushing ACOs to grow and they’re responding accordingly — 1.5 million beneficiaries were added the first day of this year. The number of organizations is also growing, with 106 added in 2013, 123 added in 2014, and an expected 120 ACO increase slated for 2015.

The presentation also included results from a joint survey between eHealth Initiative and Premier, designed to assess how commercial and federal ACOs are leveraging health IT and technology in their respective markets. It did this with a focus specifically on

  • Health IT infrastructure and workforce capability
  • Use of data, analytics, and health information exchange
  • Opportunities and challenges

Taking Advantage Of Tech

The survey found that most ACOs actually demonstrated diverse health IT capabilities. Most have an infrastructure that can support quality measurement, population health management, and physician payment and contract adjudication. The larger the ACO, the better staffed, and more technologically prepared they appeared to be.

While they may be prepared, ACOs over all are lagging behind on participating in health information exchanges (HIEs). Few of the organizations surveyed participated at the time of the response, or saw seamless data exchange to be strategically important. All reporting ACOs noted access to data from external organizations to be a significant challenge.

Interestingly, the survey (which also broke results down by the age of the reporting organization) found that once an ACO had been in operation for 18 months, they reported substantially more advanced capabilities, data used for analytics, and performance improvements associated with health IT. At the same time, they reported more acute barriers and challenges.

A Lag In Tech

Additionally, the survey found little development in IT infrastructure since the previous version — most ACOs still reported using very basic health IT elements for documentation and coordination of care. Little growth has been seen in terms of the use of population health, revenue, or other customer relationship management systems.

They have also not been able to effectively scale to their IT needs. Interoperability and workflow integration have emerged as significant challenges, and the organizations have so far been unable to staff accordingly, with 66 percent reporting difficulties with hiring trained staff (up from 33 percent last year).

Solutions providers might find their emerging capabilities and areas of lack interesting. Only 38 percent reported using secure messaging, 36 percent reported using referral management tools, a small 34 percent used phone-based telemedicine, and its video-based counterpart was only used by 26 percent.

Revenue cycle and customer relationship management systems showed similar numbers at 28 percent and 26 percent respectively.

Go Deeper

To read more on some of the opportunities for solutions providers around the technology mentioned in this article, read: