ACOs Do Not Improve Patient Outcomes or Lower Costs



People with complex needs account for a disproportionate amount of Medicare spending, partially because of fragmented care delivered across multiple practitioners and settings. Accountable care organization (ACO) contracts give practitioners incentives to improve care coordination to the extent that coordination initiatives reduce total spending or improve quality.


To assess the association between ACO-reported care management and coordination activities and quality, utilization, spending, and health care system interactions in older adults with complex needs.

Design, Setting, and Participants

In this cross-sectional study, survey information on care management and coordination processes from 244 Medicare Shared Savings Program ACOs in the 2017-2018 National Survey of ACOs (of 351 Medicare ACO respondents; response rate, 69%) conducted from July 20, 2017, to February 15, 2018, was linked to 2016 Medicare administrative claims data. Medicare beneficiaries 66 years or older who were defined as having complex needs because of frailty or 2 or more chronic conditions associated with high costs and clinical need were included.


Beneficiary attribution to ACO reporting comprehensive (top tertile) care management and coordination activities.

Main Outcomes and Measures

All-cause prevention quality indicator admissions, 30-day all-cause readmissions, acute care and critical access hospital admissions, evaluation and management visits in ambulatory settings, inpatient days, emergency department visits, total spending, post–acute care spending, health care contact days, and continuity of care (from Medicare claims).


Among 1 402 582 Medicare beneficiaries with complex conditions, the mean (SD) age was 78 (8.0) years and 55.1% were female. Compared with beneficiaries assigned to ACOs in the bottom tertile of care management and coordination activities, those assigned to ACOs in the top tertile had identical median prevention quality indicator admissions and 30-day all-cause readmissions (0 per beneficiary across all tertiles), hospitalization and emergency department visits (1.0 per beneficiary in bottom and top tertiles), evaluation and management visits in ambulatory settings (14.0 per beneficiary [interquartile range (IQR), 8.0-21.0] in both tertiles), longer median inpatient days (11.0 [IQR, 4.0-33.0] vs 10.0 [IQR, 4.0-32.0]), higher median annual spending ($14 350 [IQR, $4876-$36 119] vs $14 229 [IQR, $4805-$36 268]), lower median health care contact days (28.0 [IQR, 17.0-44.0] vs 29.0 [IQR, 18.0-45.0]), and lower continuity-of-care index (0.12 [IQR, 0.08-0.20] vs 0.13 [IQR, 0.08-0.21]). Accounting for within-patient correlation, quality, utilization, and spending outcomes among patients with complex needs attributed to ACOs were not statistically different comparing the top vs bottom tertile of care management and coordination activities.

Conclusions and Relevance

The ACO self-reports of care management and coordination capacity were not associated with differences in spending or measured outcomes for patients with complex needs. Future efforts to care for patients with complex needs should assess whether strategies found to be effective in other settings are being used, and if so, why they fail to meet expectations. ..”

Ouayogodé, Mariétou H et al. “Association Between Care Management and Outcomes Among Patients With Complex Needs in Medicare Accountable Care Organizations.” JAMA network open vol. 2,7 e196939. 3 Jul. 2019, doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.6939

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