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Physicians versus Hospitals as Leaders of Accountable Care Organizations

NEJM | November 10, 2010 | Topics: Accountable Care Organizations, Reform Implementation

Robert Kocher, M.D., and Nikhil R. Sahni, B.S.

Enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a historic event. Along with the Recovery Act, the ACA will usher in the most extensive changes in the U.S. health care system since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. Under this law, the next few years will be a period of what economists call “creative destruction”: our fragmented, fee-for-service health care delivery system will be transformed into a higher-quality, higher-productivity system with strong incentives for efficient, coordinated care.1Consequently, the actions of physicians and hospitals during this period will determine the structure of the delivery system for many years. The implications will be profound for hospitals’ dominant role in the health care system and for physicians’ income, autonomy, and work environments.

The ACA aims to simultaneously improve the quality of care and reduce costs. Doing so will require focused efforts to improve care for the 10% of patients who account for 64% of all U.S. health care costs.2 Much of this cost derives from high rates of unnecessary hospitalizations and potentially avoidable complications,3 and these, in turn, are partially driven by fee-for-service incentives that fail to adequately reward coordinated care that effectively prevents illness. The ACA includes numerous provisions designed to catalyze transformation of the delivery system, moving it away from fee for service and toward coordinated care (see table).

Read complete article, Physicians versus Hospitals as Leader of Accountable Care Organizations.

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