For the past several years, Partners HealthCare has participated in the U.S. government’s Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO). By participating in an ACO, we’re required to share in the financial risk associated with our patients’ medical spending and think about alternative ways to get patients the care that they need. And while ACOs appear to lower medical spending, so far there has been little research that shows how these savings are actually achieved.

But a new study we're publishing this month shows that the Partners Pioneer ACO not only reduced spending growth, but did so by reducing avoidable hospitalizations for patients with elevated but modifiable risks.

The research showed that patients in the care management program had lower rates of emergency department visits (94% of the rates of non-participants) and non-emergency visits (88% of the rates of non-participants), and an 8% decrease in hospitalizations. Put simply, the longer a patient was in the program, the greater the reduction in hospitalizations.

In terms of cost savings, participation in the care management program was associated with a reduction in Medicare spending of $101 per participant per month, a decline of 6%. The entire ACO population, similar to comparable studies, reduced health care spending $14 per participant per month, a 2% decline.

Although the effects of payment system changes are still ongoing, this study reinforces the observation that altering care delivery takes time, but is worth the investment

Gregg Meyer, MD, Chief Clinical Officer at Partners HealthCare

To learn more, read our press release or the full study in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs.

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