Pioneer ACO Update: Q&A With Health IT Leaders from Eastern Maine Healthcare System

In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the names of 32 health organizations selected to participate in their Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model, which launched just over one month ago on Jan. 1.

In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the names of 32 health organizations selected to participate in their Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model, which launched just over one month ago on Jan. 1.

Chosen from 80 applicants, these 32 Pioneer ACOs are testing several new payment arrangements, which HHS estimates could save more than $1 billion over five years and improve care for 860,000 Medicare beneficiaries. Organizations selected (.doc) are truly at the forefront of the movement toward a new coordinated delivery model designed to reduce health costs and improve the quality of care patients receive.

With the help of Andrea Littlefield (@BangorBeacon), I asked health IT leaders from Pioneer ACO Eastern Maine Healthcare System to share their experiences participating in the program, about the IT infrastructure they have in place to coordinate the delivery of care, and any advice they would give other health IT professionals working toward creating an ACO.

EMHS’ Pioneer ACO includes three of the system’s member hospitals: Eastern Maine Medical Center, The Aroostook Medical Center, and Inland Hospital.

Special thanks to EMHS’ Catherine J. Bruno, FACHE, vice president and chief information officer; and Ralph Swain, corporate director of information systems, for collaborating and providing the following answers.

When Eastern Maine Healthcare System was selected to be one of the 32 Pioneer ACOs, what was your immediate reaction?  (Was it complete celebration, full of high fives and champagne toasts? Or was it, ‘OK here we go, let’s get to work… there’s no looking back now?’)

We are very excited about the opportunity to participate in the Pioneer ACO. I think our reactions were a mix of what you mention – we were elated, we celebrated, and then rolled up our sleeves and got to work. As a healthcare leader, EMHS looks forward to helping shape the future of healthcare delivery and reimbursement strategies.

Prior to Eastern Maine Healthcare System’s selection as a Pioneer ACO, a technology foundation obviously had to be in place. Did EMHS form or participate in an HIE prior to your acceptance to the Pioneer program? Are all connected providers participating in the HIE also participating in the ACO?

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