Connecting the Dots Across the Care Continuum: Addressing Behavioral Health in ACO Networks

Thumbnail Image
Publication or External Link
Anderson, Andrew
Franzini, Luisa
Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) represent a shift from traditional fee-for-service payment systems that reward volume to payment models that reward providers for value (e.g. quality improvement and cost reduction). Hospitals that lead or participate in ACOs have the potential to work with other providers to bridge the gap between traditional medical and behavioral health services. The goal of this dissertation was to examine the structures, processes, and outcomes of care for hospitals that lead or participate in ACO networks. The overarching hypothesis was that ACO-affiliated hospitals provide better behavioral health care due to increased care coordination and increased connections to behavioral health providers. This dissertation had three aims: 1) compare the implementation of care coordination strategies between ACO affiliated hospitals and unaffiliated hospitals and examine whether the implementation of care coordination strategies varies by hospital payment model types; 2) compare the use of care coordination strategies between ACO-affiliated hospitals with and without in-network behavioral health providers; and 3) compare rates of follow-up after a hospitalization for mental illness between ACO-affiliated and unaffiliated hospitals. These aims build on each other to illustrate how hospitals that participate in ACOs are improving care coordination and the provision of behavioral health services. There were several meaningful findings. ACO-affiliated hospitals were more likely to use care coordination strategies compared to unaffiliated hospitals. Participation in global capitation and shared savings models was associated with greater use of care coordination strategies. Nearly two-thirds of ACO-affiliated hospitals did not have in-network behavioral health providers. ACO-affiliated hospitals had a significantly higher average unadjusted rates of follow-up after a hospitalization for mental illness at 7 days and 30 days post-discharge compared to unaffiliated hospitals. Hospitals are important components of the care continuum and will play a critical role in improving outcomes for patients with behavioral health conditions. Policy makers should include behavioral health related performance measures tied to performance-based payment arrangements in ACO programs. ACOs can be used as way to bridge behavioral, clinical, and social services to address the unique needs of individuals with behavioral health conditions.