NCQA names first 6 'early adopter' ACOs

By Diana Manos
10:29 AM

 The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has announced the first six provider-based accountable care organizations (ACOs) to seek accreditation from the ACO Accreditation program NCQA launched in November.

The six early adopters are: 

  • Billings Clinic, Billings, Mont.
  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Crystal Run Healthcare, Middletown, N.Y.
  • Essentia Health, Duluth, Minn.
  • HealthPartners, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, Houston, Tex.

According to NCQA, the early-adopter designation means these organizations have committed to undergoing a full NCQA survey of their ACO capabilities between March 1 and December 31, 2012.

[See also: NCQA releases ACO guidelines.]

Benefits of being an early adopter include independent assessment of an organization’s readiness to be an ACO, according to NCQA officials. Organizations that earn accreditation may have extra credibility and first-mover advantages in their local markets. Being an early adopter of ACO accreditation may also help an organization become eligible to participate in demonstration projects or pilot programs that public and private health plans sponsor. 

“I applaud these organizations for having the courage to go first and measure themselves against objective, balanced standards of ACO readiness,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane. “Volunteering for this evaluation is the first step to showing payers and providers how well they can do the things ACOs are expected to do.” 

According to O’Kane, NCQA’s ACO accreditation program is a roadmap for provider-led organizations to demonstrate their ability to reach the triple aim: reduce cost, improve quality and enhance the patient experience.

To maximize accreditation’s usefulness for a variety of ACOs and ACO partners, the NCQA program:

  • Aligns with many aspects of the Medicare Shared Savings Program
  • Addresses expectations common among private purchasers
  • Uses three levels of accreditation to signify differing levels of ACO readiness and capability.

Accreditation standards require ACOs to demonstrate capabilities in seven areas. To earn the highest of three possible accreditation levels, an ACO must not only meet standards but also demonstrate strong performance or significant improvement on core measures of clinical quality, patient experience and efficiency/utilization.

[See also: NCQA names top 20 health plans for 2011.]

The NCQA program contains many consumer protections and aligns with consumer protection principles outlined in the National Partnership for Women & Families’ Campaign for Better Care.

NCQA is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality.

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