CMS Unveils New ACO Participants Amid Push To Boost Health IT Use

December 24, 2014 in News

On Monday, CMS announced that 89 new accountable care organizations will join the Medicare Shared Savings Program in January 2015, Clinical Innovation Technology reports (Walsh, Clinical Innovation Technology, 12/23).

Background

The new additions come as CMS has proposed several changes in an effort to encourage participants to remain with the program, Modern Healthcare reports (Evans, Modern Healthcare, 12/22).

For example, CMS earlier this month released a proposed rule that would give MSSP participants the “flexibility to use telehealth services as they deem appropriate for their efforts to improve care and avoid unnecessary costs.” Specifically, the proposed rule would allow CMS to waive certain telemedicine rules, such as requirements that patients be located in rural areas, if deemed appropriate.

In addition, the proposal would require ACOs to describe how they plan to “encourage and promote” the use of health IT tools to improve care coordination. The proposed rule notes that such tools could include:

  • Electronic health records;
  • Telehealth services, including remote patient monitoring;
  • Electronic health information exchange; and
  • Other electronic tools designed to engage patients in their care (iHealthBeat, 12/2).

New ACO Participant Details

The new participants will bring the total number of ACOs in MSSP to 405 and expand the number of Medicare beneficiaries served by MSSP ACOs from 4.9 million to 7.2 million. Meanwhile, more than 200 participating ACOs are soon expected to decide whether they will remain in the program once their contracts expire at the end of 2015 (Modern Healthcare, 12/22).

Sean Cavanaugh, director of the CMS’ Center for Medicare, in a blog post wrote, “ACOs drive progress in the way care is provided by improving the coordination and integration of health care, and improving the health of patients with a priority placed on prevention and wellness” (CMS blog, 12/22).

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