Fragmentation, Fee-for-service and Futile care are the trifecta of what is supposedly ailing our health care system, or non-system, as it is fashionably described nowadays. Modern health care has reached its crisis point not due to hordes of people keeling over and dying in the streets, as they did during historical health care crises brought on by plagues and famine, but due to exploding costs of delivering decent care to all people. Since the issue now is mostly financial, health care as a discipline is attracting the interests of those who practice the dismal science of Economics. Over the last two centuries, economists have successfully addressed the F words in other industries with spectacular results in developed countries, so why not apply lessons learned to health care?
The obvious reason to treat economists with suspicion in health care is the quintessential argument that people are not widgets, but there is another problem. Most tried-and-true solutions for increasing availability and quality while lowering costs of products are not accounting for the other explosion occurring as we speak – the Internet. How can this assertion be true when we are in the midst of a government sponsored spending spree to computerize medical records and adopt Health Information Technology (HIT)? Apparently, even those who lead and define the HIT revolution are reluctant (or unable) to grasp its full implication, thus they are consistently underestimating the power of the Internet to serve the individual, and as a result are hedging their bets on technology with classic industrial models from days gone by.
Like many participants in the Medicare Shared Savings ACO Program (MSSP), Family Health ACO is sailing in uncharted waters.
All ACOs are facing significant challenges in better understanding patient utilization patterns, identifying high-risk patients, and implementing care coordination strategies.
Even more unique is that Family Health ACO (“Family Health”) is composed entirely of federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). FQHCs are community based organizations that provide critical primary and preventive care for millions of underserved and uninsured Americans, regardless of their ability to pay.
Nationwide, there are over 1200 FQHCs serving the health care needs of the working poor, the unemployed, the undocumented, and anyone else in need of primary medical care. Family Health provides care to over 200,000 patients and spans nine counties in New York State; from the bustling streets of New York City to the rural landscapes of the Hudson Valley.
Partners in the Family Health ACO include Open Door Family Medical Centers (“Open Door”), The Institute for Family Health (“The Institute”), and Hudson River Health Care (HRHCare).
Collectively the ACO includes 120 physicians, 60 advanced practice nurses and physician assistants, and nearly 100 dental providers.
These organizations have a strong history of collaboration, including their first venture in 2008 to form the Hudson Information Technology for Community Health (HITCH). HITCH enabled the organizations to pool resources and work collaboratively on cancer screening and diabetes management outreach programs.
The ACO partnership is helping to further strengthen the ties between these three community-based health care organizations and their communities.