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ACOs Stuck In Limbo In Trying To Build HIT Infrastructure

Posted on September 26, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Though they try to present themselves differently, ACOs are paper tigers. While they may be bound together by the toughest contracts an army of lawyers can devise, they really aren’t integrated in a meaningful way.

After all, the hospitals and medical groups that make up the ACO still have their own leadership, they don’t generally hold assets in common other than funds to support the ACO’s operations, and they’re definitely not in a great position to integrate technically.

So it comes as no surprise that a recent study has found that ACOs are having a hard time with interoperability and rolling out advanced health IT functions.

The study, a joint effort by Premier and the eHealth Initative, surveyed 62 ACOs. It found that 86% had an EMR, 74% had a disease registry, 58% had a clinical decision support system, and 28% had the ability to build a master patient index.

Adding advanced IT functions is prohibitively difficult for many, researchers said. Of the group, 100% said accessing external data was difficult, 95% said it was too costly, 95% cite the lack of interoperability, 90% cite the lack of funding or return on investment and 88% said integration between various EMRs and other sources of data was a barrier to interoperability.

So what you’ve got here is groups of providers who are expected to deliver efficient, coordinated care or risk financial penalties, but don’t have the ability to track patients moving from provider to provider effectively. This is a recipe for disaster for ACOs, which are having trouble controlling risk even without the added problem of out of synch health IT systems.

By the way, if ACOs hope to make things easier by merging with some of the partners, that may not work either. The FTC — the government’s antitrust watchdog — has begun to take a hard look at many hospital and physician mergers. While hospitals say that they are acquiring their peers to meet care coordination goals, the FTC isn’t buying it, arguing that doctors and hospitals can generally achieve the benefits of coordinated care without a full merger.

This leaves ACOs in a very difficult position. If they risk the FTC’s ire by merging with other providers, but can’t achieve interoperability as separate entities, how are they going to meet the goals they are required to meet by health insurers? (I think there’s little doubt, at this point, that truly successful ACOs will have to find a way to integrate health IT systems smoothly.)  It’s an ugly situation that’s only likely to get uglier.

Many Hospital Executives Expect Big Health IT Investments This Year

Posted on May 8, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Surprise, surprise.  A new report from the Premier healthcare alliance finds that many hospital executives will make their largest capital investments in IT this year.

To prepare the report, known as the spring 2013 Economic Outlook, Premier spoke with 530 survey respondents, most of whom were hospital leaders.  Survey respondents also included materials and practice area managers, reports iHealthBeat.

Roughly 43 percent of respondents said that their health organization’s biggest capital investment over the next year would be in health IT, a jump of 21 percent from two years ago.  Offering a hint on where the money may be going, the report also found that 32 percent of respondents can’t currently share data across the continuum of care.

Other clues as to where the spending is going come from the study’s topline finding, which predicts a big shift from inpatient to outpatient care.

According to Premier, only 35 percent of respondents are expecting to see an increase in inpatient spending this year as compared to 2012, down 30 percent from predictions made last year. Meanwhile, 69 percent of respondents said they expect to see an increase in 2013 outpatient volume compared to last year.

Some additional intelligence from the report:

* 22 percent of respondents are in an ACO, and 55 percent plan to be by the end of next year

* 27 percent don’t have plans to pursue the ACO model, and may look to bundled payment, care management fees or pay for  performance options

*  29 percent said overutilization of products and services and 22 percent said lack of clinical coordination were the biggest drivers of healthcare costs

* 48 percent said reimbursement cuts had the biggest impact on their health systems

* 40 percent said capital spending would increase over the next 12 months as compared with the previous year

* Almost 37 percent project a capital spending decrease