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The National Accountable Care Organization Summit( in Washington, DC on June 27 - 28, 2011 will provide an unprecedented opportunity to discuss, dissect, and identify effective ways to implement ACOs in order to improve care quality and lower costs. With the recent release of proposed regulations for implementing the Medicare Shared Savings program - designed to govern the short-term implementation of accountable care organizations (ACOs) in Medicare - under the Affordable Care Act, the Summit will bring together leading policymakers and experts to provide unique and in-depth insights for putting these regulations into practice. Additionally, the Summit will focus on critical issues stakeholders will need to consider for ACO implementation in both the private and public sectors, including strengthening coordination of care, understanding infrastructure needs, and linking multiple reform initiatives.

What is an ACO?
ACOs are provider collaborations that support the integration of groups of physicians, hospitals, and other providers in different ways around the opportunity to receive additional payments by achieving continually advancing patient-focused quality targets and demonstrating real reductions in overall spending growth for their defined patient population. The ACO model is highly flexible and can be organized in a number of ways - ranging from fully integrated delivery systems to networked models within which physicians in small office practices can work effectively together to improve quality, coordinate care and reduce costs. They can also feature different payment incentives ranging from "one-sided" shared savings within a fee-for-service environment, to a range of limited or substantial capitation arrangements with quality bonuses.

ACOs provide a mechanism to transition from paying for volume and intensity to paying for value. They are compatible with a range of other payment reforms to improve quality, such as medical homes and bundled payments; and can help assure that these reforms lead to sustainable quality improvements and cost reductions.

What will the National ACO Summit Do?
The National ACO Summit has gathered thoughtful health care leaders from around the country and across the spectrum of health care to discuss the promise as well as the challenges and limitations of implementing ACOs. Opening day sessions will cover key topics, including core competencies of successful ACOs, models for ACO implementation, and methods for lowering medical costs through payment and care models. Subsequent sessions will delve deeper into related issues, with panels covering subjects that ACOs must consider, including:

  • Fostering Better Care Coordination;
  • Structural safeguards against market dominance and antitrust concerns;
  • The importance of private-public payer collaboration;
  • Funding ACO start-up costs;
  • New Pathways to Clinical Innovation; and
  • Opportunities and Challenges in Measuring ACO Performance.

The Summit will conclude with remarks on how ACOs, in collaboration with broader payment and delivery system reforms, can help transform the U.S. health care system into one based on high-value care.

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