Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs): Opportunities for the Social Work Profession

Stacy Collins, MSW


Practice Perspectives


The accountable care organization is a new breed of health care provider, which embraces three core principles: patient-centered primary care, payment reform, and meaningful performance measurement. Specifically, an ACO is a network of hospitals, clinics, physician practices and other providers who work together to provide coordinated, integrated care for an assigned population of individuals and who receive financial compensation for meeting specific patient outcomes. The foundation of an ACO is the primary care medical home. All ACO enrollees are assigned a medical home provider (typically a physician or nurse), who is accountable for the all the healthcare services an individual receives. To be successful, ACOs must focus strongly on prevention and careful management of individuals with chronic disease. ACOs are also expected to contribute to the development of best clinical practices and to build standards for evidenced-based medicine.

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