What is an ACO?
An Accountable Care Organization (ACO) is a group of doctors and other healthcare providers who agree to work together with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to give patients the best possible care. ACOs may take different approaches to giving patients coordinated care. Some ACOs may have special nurses that help set up appointments or make sure patients’ medications are in order when they enter or leave a hospital. Other ACOs may help doctors get equipment for patients to monitor medical conditions better at home, if needed.
Most ACOs use advanced systems that let them more carefully track patients’ care, and make sure that participating doctors have the most up-to-date information about their patients’ health. The goal of the ACO is to support doctors and other healthcare providers in caring for their patients. For patients, this means doctors communicate better with each other and patients can avoid having duplicate tests or answering the same questions over and over. Working together, healthcare providers can do more to follow each patient’s health, ensuring the best possible care.
Doctors and other healthcare providers choose to participate in an ACO because they’re committed to providing patients with a better care experience. They may also be rewarded for offering better, more coordinated care. If a doctor chooses to participate in an ACO, the doctor’s patients will be notified, either in person or by letter.
An ACO isn’t the same as a Medicare Advantage Plan or Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). For patients who are covered by Medicare benefits, services, rights and protections won’t change. Patients still have the right to use any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare at any time.