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Are accountable care organizations 'improving population health'?
Date:3/19/2013

the office. However, it falls far short of working to improve the health of the population in a geographic area."

Despite the widespread use of the phrase "population health" tied to ACOs, it's not clear that ACOs actually have the incentives or the tools to improve the health of the entire community in which they are located, according to researchers.

"Population health depends not only on medical care, but also on social services, the public health system and, crucially, on socioeconomic factors, such as housing, education, poverty and nutrition," emphasize the Weill Cornell authors in their JAMA article. "Talking about ACOs as if they are focusing on improving population health -- as opposed to improving medical care for their populations of patients -- leads to a lack of clarity about what ACOs are doing about population health and may divert attention away from social and public health services and from socioeconomic factors critical to health."

The authors do not suggest that ACOs should be responsible for population health defined as the health of everyone in their geographic area, because few if any ACOs have the expertise, authority, and incentives to act effectively in the areas of public health, social services and socioeconomic determinants of health. Instead, they suggest that the phrase "population health" should be clearly defined, and not used loosely in relation to ACOs.

"When population health is clearly defined, it becomes possible to think more specifically about what needs to be done to improve it, whether and how ACOs can help, the types of organizations with which ACOs will need to cooperate and the incentives that ACOs -- and other organizations -- will need to improve the health of the population in their geographic area," says Dr. Casalino.

The authors note that it has been suggested by other experts that ACOs could possibly contribute to improving the health of the whole population by fun
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Contact: Lauren Woods
Law2014@med.cornell.edu
646-317-7401
Weill Cornell Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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