The National Committee for Quality Assurance has issued draft criteria to define the core capabilities of an accountable care organization.
The accountable care organization (ACO) concept is central to the health system reform envisioned by the Affordable Care Act, but what it would look like or how it would work has been variously and loosely defined. The nonprofit NCQA has stepped in to offer a set of parameters that might standardize the ACO model.
“Our goal is to help people be confident that ACOs meeting the final criteria actually can contain costs without compromising quality,” said NCQA President Margaret O'Kane in a statement.
The NCQA has been a leader in establishing quality performance measurement tools that are widely used by health care providers, insurers, and employers. The group receives funding and support from a variety of organizations, including the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians; insurers and pharmaceutical companies also contribute.
The organization has posted the ACO criteria on its Web site and is accepting public comments until Nov. 19. According to the NCQA, each ACO should have core capabilities in seven categories: program structure operations; access and availability; primary care; care management; care coordination and transitions; patient rights and responsibilities; and performance reporting.
The criteria were developed by the organization's ACO task force, which was headed by Dr. Robert Margolis, CEO of the California-based HealthCare Partners Medical Group; the 18 other task force members included Dr. Duane Davis, vice president and chief medical officer of the Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health Plan, and Dr. Nicholas Wolter, CEO of the Billings (Mont.) Clinic.
ACOs that participate in the NCQA process also will eventually report outcomes on performance measurements. That is important, Dr. Margolis said in a statement, adding that, “most potential ACOs do not have data that can be used from the start to evaluate performance.”
He added that “public feedback will help with finalizing the criteria that will start these organizations to a firm foundation.”
After the comment period closes, the task force led by Dr. Margolis will review the comments and make revisions, as appropriate, according to a spokesperson for NCQA.
The group will also align the criteria with any regulations pertaining to ACOs. The criteria will likely be made final by March 2011 and then will be released in the second quarter of 2011, the spokesperson said.