A new study by researchers at Partners HealthCare, one of the nation’s largest Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), shows that physician turnover and low numbers of enrolled patients play a key role in an ACO’s ability to meet its financial targets. With limited research on physicians who work in ACOs and their experiences with patients, this study provides insight into the role of physicians in Medicare payment reform.
At Partners’ Pioneer ACO, although most physicians (88%) had at least some patients attributed to them, it accounted for a small part of their panel (less than 5%). High turnover rates also contributed to a frequent “churn” of patients. The constant coming and going of patients presents both operational and financial challenges for ACOs.
Given that ACOs are making significant investments to improve patient care that require more than a few months to pay off, the turnover in patients makes it difficult to succeed in the ACO payment model.
“This study highlights a significant problem in some of the early ACO models,” says Tim Ferris, Senior Vice President for Population Health Management at Partners HealthCare. “Although the Pioneer ACO model has been phased out, we are committed to continue our participation in the Next Generation ACO Model. We look forward to working with Medicare to fine tune the ACO model and deliver high quality care to patients at lower costs.”