A number of pundits are citing the systemic failure of ACOs, after additional Pioneer ACOs announced withdrawal from the program – Where do you weigh in on the prognosis for Medicare and Commercial ACOs over the next several years?”
Peter R. Kongstvedt
Whoever thought that by themselves, ACOs would successfully address the problem(s) of [cost] [care coordination] [outcomes] [scurvy] [Sonny Crockett’s mullet in Miami Vice Season 4]? The entire history of managed health care is a long parade of innovations that were going to be “the answer” to at least the first four choices above (Vitamin C can cure #5 but sadly there is no cure for #6). Highly praised by pundits who jump in front of the parade and declare themselves to be leaders, each ends up having a place, but only a place, in addressing our problematic health system.
The reasons that each new innovative “fix” end up helping a little but not occupying the center vary, but the one thing they all have in common is that the new thing must still compete with the old thing, and the old thing is there because we want it there, or at least some of us do. The old thing in the case of ACOs is the existing payment system in Medicare and by extension, our healthcare system overall because for all the organizational requirements, ACOs are a payment methodology.
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.”
– Yogi Berra
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” said Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where —” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“— so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
– Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
The country is in the midst of an unprecedented transformation of the health care system and may even be at a ‘tipping point’, yet many of us find it astounding that we have no official (or unofficial for that matter) collective vision of where we are headed, thus how the heck do we know if we are on the right path to get there? Given the very high stakes and costs that extend far beyond financial ones, why is it acceptable to not have a future state in mind so that the current state can be quantified and a gap analysis roadmap can be created to address it? Sure, we have the Triple Aim as the overall goal but what are the ‘guardrails’ that help build the road to it?
The truly great news is that we actually have those ‘guardrails’, and in fact have had them for over a dozen years. It is just that most people have not been aware of this hidden time-tested gem, created by incredibly thoughtful health system transformation forefathers and foremothers back in 2001. This visionary team has overwhelmingly been praised for creating the powerful and gutsy call to action in their Crossing the Quality Chasm Institute of Medicine (IOM) report. What many have missed is that in addition to all the highly visible work, the group created a set of 10 key new rules to inform a future state for the health care system (see figure 1).
Figure 1 Source: Institute of Medicine, “Crossing the Quality Chasm,” p. 67, 2001.
Twelve years later, the chart in Figure 1 strikes many of us in two powerful ways: 1) How the ‘New Rule’ column has stood the test of time for the vast majority of its intended direction and spirit, and 2) how sad and disappointing that many of the 2001 ‘Current Approach’ column items are still entrenched even today.