Despite what has been voiced or viewed by critics of Shared Savings as a complicated mold physicians must fit into, or even a harkening to managed care, accountable care can instead be a gateway for healthcare providers to determine their own futures, and emerge as increasingly trusted leaders in their communities.
As the concept and trend toward preventive, care coordination delivery reform built on quality reporting incentives and health information technology takes multiple shapes - be it the CMS program, private payer, employer, health system or public-private combinations – there are defined steps physicians and practices can take to navigate the landscape to become an “ACO-ready” practice suitable to these entities.
Built around the necessity of sharing discrete data, it’s important for physicians to take a leadership role in assessing technology capabilities needed for success. EHRs with interoperable solutions, e-prescribing, lab data capture and patient communication functions are needed foundations.
Physicians and practices should immediately begin proactively engaging peers, hospital and health system leaders and all types of payers to not only determine care coordination specs and strategies, but toward the pivotal reality of not being left out of an emerging program. Primary care and specialists practices must understand their value to these programs, but also realize the size of the rosters being proposed around them.
As these programs grow, there is a growing understanding by payers that a technologically sound and progressive practice is the key to success, and the level of confidence payers are looking for.
The 2011 Employer Driven Accountable Care Organizations Survey Report  (Aon Hewitt, Polakoff/Boland) focused on that very sector, which is becoming a large player in accountable care program formation.
- It found that of more than 600 companies asked, the highest combined confidence level (53%) of an ACO-run structure was a physician-led ACO combined with a health plan, over that of a hospital-led program (48%).
- Also encouraging from the survey was that quality of care, cited by 82% of respondents, was the most important goal of an ACO.
Practices and medical groups should take this to heart, for it is their physicians who are best positioned to lead the way on the understanding of the inter-workings, workflows and care plans that best lead to preventive, coordinated care. And that will translate into properly focused payment structures.
How can care providers and healthcare organizations best prepare now for accountable care and/ or delivery reform?  Share your thoughts and engage with other health IT professional on this topic, or other health IT topics , in the HIMSS LinkedIn Discussion Group.
Justin Barnes is co-chair of the Accountable Care Community of Practice (ACCoP), and a vice president at Greenway Medical Technologies, Inc . This article originally appeared on the HIMSS Blog .