ACOs Struggle to Integrate Home Health Data

Home health agencies are among the least likely to easily integrate data with an accountable care organization (ACO), according to a survey by eHealth Initiative, a non-profit organization that researches, educate and advocates for better quality and efficiency in health care through information and technology.

In the third annual survey, 39% of the 69 ACOs surveyed said integrating data was “harder” and 39% said data was “not integrated” in home health. By comparison, 62% said integrating data was getting easier in primary care.

One of the key missions of ACOs is to reduce health care costs through coordinated care. Home health agencies potentially can play a large role when it comes to cost savings for ACOs as patients transition from acute care settings to post-acute settings.

ACOs rely heavily on integrated data to identify gaps in care, compare clinician performance, measure and report quality and proactively identify risks. When savings thresholds are met, ACOs can share payments. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) revealed last month that ACOs shared more than $422 million in savings benefits in 2014.

A study by Johns Hopkins Medicine that was published in the journal Academic Medicine found that integrated data as part of a “robust” IT system was critical in the success of ACOs.

“ACOs also require comprehensive and integrated data and analytic systems that provide meaningful population data to inform care teams in real time, promote quality improvement, and monitor spending trends,” the report reads.

Without data that is easily integrated, ACOs could be missing opportunities for smarter spending and healthier patients.

Most ACOs—78%—find it a challenge to access data outside their organization or network, but only 38% said the cost of new health information technology is a top challenge, the eHealth Initiative survey found.

Part of the problem is that not all providers are committed to participate with ACOs.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done with getting providers on board with ACO operations and getting them in the mindset of practicing care in a transformed manner,” Alex Kontur, manager of research and projects at eHealth Initiatives, said in the 2015 ACO Survey Results Webinar.

Written by Amy Baxter