An accountable care organization (ACO) is a network of doctors, hospitals, or other healthcare providers who voluntarily come together to provide coordinated care to a given patient population. This type of coordinated care delivery ensures that patients—especially those living with chronic conditions—receive the care they need when they need it. More than that, it also helps to prevent providers from unnecessarily duplicating services or making medical errors.
In October 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) established accountable care organizations under the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). Accountable care organizations who elect to participate in the MSSP agree to share both financial and medical responsibility for an assigned Medicare fee-for-service patient population.
CMS has offered several other different types of accountable care organization programs since the Medicare Shared Savings Program was developed. These Medicare programs include:
- The ACO Investment Model
- The Next Generation ACO Model
- The Medicare-Medicaid ACO Model
Since the inception of ACOs, they have expanded to serve patients in private or commercial payer settings in addition to Medicare and Medicaid patients.