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The ABCs of accountable care

by ​Randy Pelikan

Unless you’ve been living in your hospital broom closet for the past few years, you know that healthcare these days is all about “accountable care.” But what exactly is accountable care, what’s in it for you, and how do you achieve it?

The truth is, accountable care can mean different things to different people. But to our way of thinking, accountable care represents value-based, data-driven, patient-centered care that rewards quality over quantity.

Some benefits of operating under an accountable care model include improved care results such as the following:

  • fewer medical errors and less redundant services
  • more proactive, preventative healthcare
  • greater access to appropriate care
  • improved patient experience
  • lower costs for patients
  • reduced spending for healthcare organizations

What’s not to like?


But seriously, operating under accountable care isn’t proving to be easy. Not every caregiver operates within the same accountable care organization (ACO), or even ACO model. Institutional workflows and administrative processes can actually hamper an organization’s ability to manage information, preventing a hospital from taking advantage of all of the different services available in a health information exchange (HIE) or other type of ACO. Moreover, not every health system is consolidated on a single electronic health record (EHR), nor does it typically have all of its patient data located in one consolidated medical record. As a result, distributing information can become tedious and manual. While many organizations may be meeting the minimum requirements of Meaningful Use, their data management systems aren’t necessarily supporting the transition to true accountable care.


Strategies to achieve accountable care

The key to achieving accountable care is to perfect your hospital’s ability to capture, transform and manage information and data, when and where it’s needed, in the format required and on any device. I could go on forever on this aspect alone, but here are some tips to help you get started:

Take inventory

From the standpoint of ensuring quality of care, evaluating your quality metrics as they stand today is critical. Where is your organization falling short? Where is it doing well? Understanding where your facility is positioned today is extremely important to setting a course for the future.

It is also vital to understand the partners—the providers and organizations your referrals come from and where your referrals go out to—you should include in your ACO. It’s equally important to assess your clinical data management strategy in every division, from front office paperwork to network and operational referrals and lab results. Each piece of data communicates key information vital to the care process. The more complete and accurate the information, the less your hospital will endure extra stress and financial losses from duplicated information and efforts across the continuum of care.

The benefits of operating under an accountable care model

How are you feeling about your organization’s strategies for achieving accountable care goals?

Determine a course of action

Once this inventory is complete, you can determine your course of action from a data and systems perspective. What can stay? What needs to go?

Effectively managing information—finding what’s important and being able to quickly act on that information—is the key to making information work for your organization and its patients. Information should be at the heart of patient, staff and business success, not the core of their challenges, when it comes to thriving within the realm of accountable care.
Randy Pelikan
Randy Pelikan, Senior Manager of Design for Ricoh USA, Inc.’s Healthcare vertical, partners with workflow specialists to drive software and consulting engagements focused on maximizing the value and application of information for administrative and clinical workflows. With a background ranging from outsourcing to network convergence and enterprise software, Pelikan has helped organizations make their data more accessible, secure, and actionable for more than 22 years.