The number of hospitals who participate – or plan to participate – in accountable care organizations (ACOs) has skyrocketed from less than 5% two years ago to nearly 77%, according to a recent Premier, Inc. C-suite survey. Given that ACOs aim to improve patient outcomes while curtailing costs, the ability to collect and analyze data is absolutely critical.

That’s a key lesson learned from the failure of yesterday’s capitation-based HMO model. With no data to measure their performance against, physicians had a tough time revising practice patterns to improve patient outcomes and cost efficiency.

Today, healthcare organizations have access to more information than they know what to do with. So they’re investing heavily in analytics, warehousing and staffing to help them make the most of it, especially when it comes to improving population health management. In fact, 50% of hospitals now use predictive analytics to forecast patient/population needs.

But to address the specific health needs and risks of a population and positively change outcomes, ACOs need to make sure they collect the right data. And that means counting on physicians to gather comprehensive patient information at the practice level — and at every clinical care touchpoint.

Promote physician buy-in

Even with widespread EHR adoption, meeting this goal is easier said than done, given that physicians are chronically short on time. ACOs can take advantage of a number of strategies to get physicians on board, including:

  1. Educating physicians. Physicians who understand how and why the data they capture for the ACO is critical to better patient care and better outcomes are less likely to view collecting data simply as additional work.
  2. Encouraging workflow modifications. Optimize EHR technology rather than mimicking paper-based approaches.
  3. Facilitate data sharing. Provide a connectivity platform for seamless interoperability.
  4. Provide regular feedback. Help physicians measure their performance against ACO benchmarks.

Think beyond EHRs

Although EHRs play an invaluable role, ACO sustainability also depends on numerous other I.T. systems including CPOE; admission, discharge and transfer; billing; practice management; enrollment; and care management. And according to IDC Health Insights, next-generation ACOs are likely to be driven by a “third platform” that takes patient engagement, personalized care planning and population health management to the next level by integrating data analytics, cloud, social media and mobile technologies.

Clearly, today’s ACOs are not your father’s HMO.

Read more about how to effectively collect and share the data you need to build ACO success in CDW Healthcare’s summer 2014 Health Tech Report magazine.

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