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Fundamentals of Accountable Care Organizations

September 25, 2015

The healthcare system in the U.S. is in the midst of transitioning away from the traditional fee-for-service (FFS) model and evolving towards a more integrated, patient-centered paradigm focused on value - rather than volume - of care. In the wake of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthcare stakeholders are actively implementing alternative payment models such as accountable care organizations (ACOs) to improve quality and health outcomes while reducing the cost of care. To monitor the changing landscape, WEDI convenes the multi-stakeholder Payment Models Workgroup to create a framework of the core attributes of new payment models, to identify key barriers and best practices, and to provide guidance on technologies that support implementation, improve sustainability and mitigate barriers.


This paper briefly describes the basic structure, operation and activities of ACOs, while outlining some of the key issues and questions that the Workgroup will tackle. WEDI encourages organizations to participate in an ongoing survey of ACOs to help monitor progress and evaluate common practices, challenges and opportunities. In follow-up to this brief, the Workgroup intends to develop additional papers that provide further perspective and overview of issues encountered, such as contracting and quality measurement and alignment.