Building an ACO for the Future


I hope you’re all having a great week. If you’ve been following this blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I am fascinated by the innovative work being done at other hospitals and health care systems around the country. I think that all of us in the health industry can learn from each other and should look for opportunities to teach each other.

This week, I had the chance to visit Bellin Health which has been leading the way in the development of its accountable care organization (ACO). ACOs represent the new model of care delivery being piloted across the country. You can learn more about ACOs by clicking this link.

Bellin Health, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was one of the 32 organizations across the country chosen to participate in the Pioneer ACO pilot program. The main goals of the ACO pilot were to increase quality of care while lowering costs.

As this article in the Wall Street Journal (to view in OurNet, click on this link:Mixed Results) points out, there have been mixed results across the participating organizations, but Bellin has shown the kind of success we should be taking note of.

In the coming months, we will begin to build our own ACO model at UMass Memorial and we need to be paying close attention to the successes and challenges of those organizations in the Pioneer pilot. Bellin has been able to lower costs for its 20,000 Medicare ACO patients by an average of 4.6 percent. That translates to several million dollars in savings.

How did Bellin Health do this? During my trip to Bellin this week, I had the opportunity to learn about its success and get some great insight to help us moving forward.

Of course, the overall answer is complex, but at the most basic levels Bellin focused its efforts on the sickest patients. It turns out that three percent of the patient population in the Pioneer pilot end up using 30 percent of the dollars spent on care. Bellin has been extremely successful at focusing attention on this small number of patients to dramatically reduce the costs for the entire population.

As we look to build out ACO-like programs, we will certainly need to pay attention to this approach.

With this type of insight, we won’t find ourselves in the situation of the executive in this video!

Enjoy the Columbus Day weekend and thanks for everything you do to take great care of our patients and one another.


1 thought on “Building an ACO for the Future

  1. Thats the funniest videao I have seen in a long time.
    Eric,from this article it seems that the ACO model will still be something that CMS will support as 18/32 did show savings and as they say it does take often take more than 1 year to demonstrate positive results.Of course,it would be interesting to know what our baseline expenses are on the current Medicare patient panel.Is that information available? I would guess based on our poor Readmissions numbers that we have ‘low hanging fruit’ and may actually be able to get savings if we tackle our sickest pts by implementing better case management and care coordination.It is very ‘doable’.I would love to share more of my thoughts with you as I see it from the trenches.

Leave a Reply