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    Evaluate accountable care organizations before joining

    Q: I am hearing mixed messages regarding accountable care organizations (ACOs) and I'm not sure what to do. Do I join one right away or should I wait and see how things shake out?

    A: ACOs have received about as much attention, if not more, as any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Initially, health systems and managing physicians saw ACOs as a way to capture market share and stand above the competition. Response to the ACO opportunity, however, has been lackluster at best.

    The federal government announced recently that only about 65 ACOs have been approved. Another 150 applications are under review. It appears that many of those who were ready to jump on the bandwagon when the idea was new have stepped back, finding themselves with far more questions about the process than they first anticipated.

    It's crucial that you evaluate the infrastructure of any organization that you found or join, even an ACO. Will the ACO lower costs while maintaining consistent quality of care? How will you manage populations of patients who might not know they have been assigned to an ACO?

    These and other questions are important to consider before taking the leap into the world of ACOs. It is vital to review all options and understand what kind of ACO, if any, would be the best fit for your practice. Failure to do so could spell disaster.

    Answers to our readers' questions were provided by Thomas J. Ferkovic, RPh, MS, managing director, SS&G Healthcare Services LLC.

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