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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
Integrity Health Network receives ACO designation
IHN President and CEO Jeffrey Tucker
Integrity Health Network (IHN) has been selected as one of 123 new Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) for Medicare recipients. It joins Esssentia as the second such organization in the region.
The designation signifies that a healthcare organization provides coordinated care to patients while helping to slow healthcare cost growth. Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, more than 360 (ACOs) have been established nationally, serving 5.3 million Medicare recipients.
Unlike many ACOs, IHN is a group of independent healthcare organizations rather than a single entity. The Duluth-based group represents 35 members having 46 sites, said Jeffrey Tucker, president and CEO.
Receiving the ACO designation “required more buy-in and participation by multiple units,” he said. “A lot of coordination was needed. This definitely was more complicated than applying as a single unit.”
On a nationwide basis, Medicare spending has grown for decades, prompting the federal government to launch the ACO program in an attempt to contain costs.
Even before the ACO designation was sought, IHN had a quality improvement structure in place. The challenge was to expand upon it within an organization where members remain autonomous.
“What we’re doing is unique because we represent multiple entities,” including independent clinics and specialty clinics plus partnerships with community hospitals, Tucker said. “There wasn’t a model we could duplicate.”
To gain ACO status, organizations need at lease 5,000 or more Medicare members, which is difficult for many single, independent healthcare providers. Tucker said IHN was able to meet that requirement by pooling its numbers from the multiple areas in which it operates.
IHN’s board will be examining whether the group will need to expand its staff to meet current and future requirements of ACO.
Those providers that obtain ACO status share with Medicare any savings generated by reducing the growth in healthcare costs.
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