ACOs' readiness to achieve cost, quality goals in medication use mixed, study finds

Study published in Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy

WASHINGTON — The ability of accountable care organizations to promote optimal use of medications has not yet been fully developed, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy, received responses from 46 ACOs representing physicians, hospitals, providers and health plans. The National Pharmaceutical Council, the American Medical Group Association and healthcare company Premier conducted the study, publishing it in the January 2014 issue of the journal. ACOs, in which groups of healthcare providers collaborate in patient care, have been touted as a way to improve the quality of care and reduce costs.

According to the study, while ACOs showed a strong ability to transmit prescriptions electronically, integrate medical and pharmacy data into a single database and offer formularies that encourage generic drugs when appropriate, some areas that need improvement include notifying physicians when prescriptions have been filled, protocols to avoid medication duplication and polypharmacy and quantify the cost offsets of medication use and demonstrate the value of appropriate medication use.

"We've long known that optimal use of medications can be an effective tool in meeting the goals of managing costs and improving quality," NPC chief science officer and study author Robert Dubois said. "We set out to determine whether ACOs are poised to maximize the value of medications to achieve those goals. What we found was that ACOs have not yet achieved this integral and critical component of care."

Another contributing author, Premier managing principal of pharmacy consulting and senior director of medication management Marv Feldman, said, "For ACOs to reach their full potential, the various moving parts of healthcare delivery — primary care, hospital care, home care, chronic condition management and medication use — will have to be used in concert."

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