High Stakes

Communications Is Critical to a Successful ACO Strategy

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act sought to reduce healthcare spending while improving quality and efficiency. Hospitals, big and small, began scrambling to figure out how to achieve results under new programs, such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).

ACOs by their nature require a high degree of collaboration among payers, providers, hospitals and employers. Strong communication is clearly essential to success. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when crafting a successful communications plan.

  • Customize communications for each stakeholder – payers, health systems, physicians and providers, and employer leadership, including department-specific messaging and process maps for HR/Benefits, Internal Communications, Technology Services and Finance.
  • Divide your communications plan into stages – before, during and after ACO implementation.
  • Break your member communication into bits and pieces. Trying to communicate all the benefits at one time will be information overload. Over a period of time, create a targeted, constant trickle of information, highlighting specific aspects in bite-size pieces.
  • Be flexible – be ready to create targeted, specific messaging based on newly identified needs and process-improvement tactics based on feedback and results.
  • Include clinical integration – specifically, providers and physicians will want to know their roles and responsibilities. Sharing members’ health information among this group is key to a successful ACO and should have a designated focus on clear two-way communication.
  • Ensure communications leaders are included from the get-go. Don’t sit back and wait to be invited to the table. Much of the success of a rollout and implementation will depend on how and when stakeholders receive information.

A well-thought out communications plan plays a critical role in the success of an ACO. And successful ACOs have great potential to provide outstanding services that will truly help people understand their healthcare treatment better and steer them toward resources they didn’t know were available. Through ACOs, members can actually receive more services that will get – and keep – them well in the long run, while cutting down on wasteful spending by all parties involved.


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