Accountable care organizations wrestling with health IT, few use single EHR, survey finds

In fact, 23 percent of ACOs are still using paper charts, according to a new study from the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute.
By Jessica Davis
11:04 AM

Many accountable care organizations are still struggling to overcome the challenges associated with health information technology integration, patient management and drug selection to improve care outcomes, according to a new study from the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute. 

In fact, fewer than a third of ACO providers use a single electronic health record system while 59 percent are on multiple systems and find it difficult to streamline and integrate them. Remarkably, PBMI found that 23 percent of ACOs still use paper charts.

[Also: Behavioral telehealth key for ACO success.]

PBMI surveyed 101 ACO providers, who cover over 30 million patients, specifically to analyze current practices in pharmacy management, the use of pharmacists in ACOs, the state of care management and patient engagement, clinical integration and future goals.

The study found most ACOs use support tools in their practices: 90 percent utilize quality reporting tools, and 60 percent use point-of-care decision tools.

However, only 34 percent of these respondents found these tools easy to use.

"ACOs represent a critical and growing part of the solution to help improve value, quality, and care in our nation's healthcare and pharmacy plays an important role in achieving those goals," Jane Lutz, PBMI executive director, said in a statement.

[Also: Steward Healthcare: ACO success hinges on IT strength]

Almost all ACOs, 93 percent, said managing population health is very or extremely important, while an even greater majority of 98 percent said their focus on population health will increase in the next three to five years. The role of the pharmacist will be front and center, they said.

Additionally, more than 60 percent of respondents said the use of biologics and specialty products and they expect genome testing will increase in the next three to five years

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But health IT utilization among ACOs needs to increase for these goals to be feasible, the report said. Additionally, the pharmacist's role needs to be more prominent to support management goals to improve adherence, reduce inappropriate utilization and drug selection for better clinical outcomes.

But only 57 percent of the ACO respondents currently employ or contract clinical pharmacists. More than half of the respondents said ACOs can decrease the cost of prescription drug therapy and another 69 percent said ACOs can increase the quality of prescription drug therapy.

"Pharmacists are underutilized as trusted advisors to patients, physicians and other providers," according to the report. "Their patient-facing role can be very powerful in education and motivation, providing a potential solution to the lack of patient engagement and commitment to self-care."

Twitter: @JessiefDavis