OIG Report: ACOs Not Using Health IT to Full Potential

Robust use of health IT help accountable care organizations (ACOs) better coordinate care, especially ACOs that use a single electronic health (EHR) system, according to a government report.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) took a closer look at six successful ACOs to evaluate how their level of health IT adoption impacted their ability to share patient data with providers participating in the ACO and providers outside of the ACO network.

“Overall, health IT tools have enabled the six ACOs we visited to better coordinate patient care. ACOs that used a single electronic health record (EHR) system across their provider networks were able to share data in real time. A small number of ACOs had access to robust health information exchanges (HIEs), which gave ACOs access to patient data even when patients saw providers outside the ACOs’ networks,” the report states.

ACOs still have struggles with health IT—especially ACOs that use multiple EHRs, which forces them to use methods such as the phone and fax machines to share patient information. Additionally, most ACOs had access to health information exchanges (HIEs) that had little or incomplete information. And while most of the ACOs studied use data analytics to drive coordination and identify risk groups, few were able to use analytics to customize care for patients’ needs.

“…the full potential of health IT has not been realized. ACOs vary in the extent to which they can rely on health IT tools, in some cases because those tools cannot reach all providers involved in a patient’s care, or because the tools lack the necessary information that ACOs need. Achieving the interoperability needed for seamless care coordination places burdens on ACOs to either invest in a single EHR system or use other methods, such as non-health IT means, to communicate health information,” the OIG concluded.

Mary Butler is associate editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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