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'The Business of Health Care Report'

ACOs: Reform Care, Then Reform Payment

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I’m Doug Hawthorne, CEO of Texas Health Resources, with “The Business of Health Care Report.”

One of the buzz-phrases in healthcare reform is “Accountable Care Organizations,” or A-C-Os. What is an ACO? It’s still an evolving concept — there is no agreed-upon definition of what an Accountable Care Organization is. The concept of an ACO is that of a virtual organization made up of local health care delivery systems and physicians who work within and around them. The ultimate purpose of an ACO is to hold healthcare providers accountable for patient care through performance measurements and pay-for-performance programs.

As we attempt to define and incentivize accountability, we must not repeat the mistakes of the past that put the primary emphasis on the cost and payment side of the equation. First we must emphasize changing the way care is delivered, then we can effectively reform how it’s paid for. Otherwise we’ll go down similar paths as we did 20 years ago, and effective reform will fail.

For many years, Texas Health hospitals have been collaborating with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and other organizations around the country to identify best practices and implement meaningful measurements that promise to advance quality, safety and satisfaction.

We must first improve delivery of care, then work on decreasing the cost. Texas Health is committed to doing both.

For our faith-based family of hospitals — Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Arlington Memorial — I’m Doug Hawthorne.

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