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ACOs report IT challenges

February 6, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Accountable care organizations (ACOs) that were started in 2012 are finding it difficult to manage, share and analyze data, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Accountable Care Organizations (NAACOS).

Of the 35 Medicare shared savings ACOs that were surveyed, 40 percent said they had problems with CMS data which included "finding suitable software, meeting implementation schedules, delays in getting claims data, new skill sets to analyze data, addresses of assignees, slow stand-up of IT system, data inconsistency from CMS, and translating the data into actionable information for care managers and providers."

As to processing claims data, 24 percent use internal IT systems exclusively; 24 percent use an external IT vendor only; and 52 percent use a combination of both.

When it comes to satisfaction with their IT services, the overall satisfaction score was 6.4, based on a scale of 10. However, the smaller ACOs said they were less satisfied.

Looking at overall start-up costs, Clif Gaus, CEO of NAACOS concluded in the report: "The NAACOS survey provides a first look at the start-up costs for the 2012 MSSP ACOs and finds them to be higher than estimated by CMS but considerably lower than many other estimates. The average first 12 months start-up cost per ACO of $2,000,000 [makes] strong statements about the high level of risk ACOs are willing to take in order to transform care in their community. Since savings are slow to flow as result of data and complex reconciliation process, ACOs will have to assume the risk of almost a second full year of operations until their cash flow can be replenished with shared savings from CMS (if any). This means that the average ACO will risk $3.5 million plus any feasibility and pre-application costs until it can see any cash flow relief from possible savings."