Do’s and Don’ts of Engaging with ACOs

By Chris Cushman

Why Is It Important?

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) were introduced as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a push toward improved quality of care and reduced healthcare costs. Since 2010, the total number of ACOs has grown quickly, with the majority of growth occurring in the last few years. As of December 2013, 606 ACOs existed in the United States.1

While the commonly heard phrase, “if you’ve seen one ACO, you’ve seen one ACO” is true, HRM’s expert ACO team has learned through conferences, seminars, and extensive research, that there are many common themes found across the board when considering partnerships with ACOs. Regardless of ACO type (Medicare, Medicaid, commercial, etc.) each ACO’s overarching objective is to reduce total cost of care while improving patient outcomes. So how can pharma play in this new space? Below are several guidelines and tips pharma professionals should follow to ensure maximum receptivity when attempting to engage and build a partnership with an ACO:

How to Maximize Receptivity When Partnering with an ACO

  1. Always do your fact finding first. Research the ACO’s program type and focus, who’s in charge, and understand potential gaps in care. Reach out to the right people, and ask good questions before you talk solutions. Bottom line: Do your homework prior to any engagement attempts to ensure you are coming in with an appropriate solution or opportunity that will match the ACO’s needs.
  2. Educate, do not sell. Don’t overestimate your capabilities or value proposition just to get your foot in the door. Don’t force-fit a solution, either. We’re talking long-lasting relationship building here. Think beyond the Rx to how your company and your products can help ACOs achieve their goals.
  3. Keep your eye on your customer’s prize. Help them be heroes! Always ask yourself the question, what do these providers need in order to achieve the ACO’s goals? Understand THEIR focus. Make their goals, your goals.
  4. Make their lives easier. Don’t create additional work for them, if possible. Think outside the box — get creative. How can your solution fit into their workflow? Focus on partnership opportunities that make sense for both parties, and be willing to put some skin in the game. It shows that you care and are committed.
  5. Come with a plan. Clearly discuss how you can help, and articulate it concisely and directly. Be respectful of their time. Show you’ve listened and done your homework. Explain HOW you can support them and help them visualize what success looks like.
  6. Get regional. Healthcare is local. Understand how local market factors and conditions can affect each and every ACO in a different way. Here’s where HRM can help.

The answer to that common burning question, “Does pharma have a seat at the table?” is a resounding, “Yes!” You might just have to put in a bit more elbow grease, and the time to engage is now. We’re all still figuring out ACOs, how to work with them, and what “good” truly looks like.

Healthcare Regional Relevance 

Healthcare is local in more ways than one, and ACOs are a prime example. Understanding the ins and outs of ACOs and if/where there might be similar, scalable characteristics is important to ensure that offerings are regionally relevant and regionally delivered, but still effective and efficient. HRM understands ACOs and has experience in subnational, regional analysis, as well as expertise in developing scalable, yet relevant, solutions.

Sources: Health Affairs Blog. Accountable Care Growth in 2014: A Look Ahead. Accessed June 16 2014. 

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