ACOs on Steroids: Joining the Oregon Experiment

It’s vividly educational to pitch in on the front lines of a grand challenge like the Oregon Experiment, sometimes described as “ACOs on steroids.”

• How do you take a financially strapped program (i.e., Medicaid), nearly double its size, control its per capita cost growth, and deliver better care and service to its patients?

• How do you create more cost-effective clinical workflows across organizational boundaries among traditional competitors?

• And how do you use IT to support the program’s lofty goals?

Observers of the movement toward accountable care organizations (ACOs) will look to Oregon for evidence of success or failure. To be fair, it will take a few years to defensibly answer these fundamental questions.

What we can say definitively now is that the journey is as necessary as it is fascinating. We describe it in a new white paper, ACOs on Steroids: Why the Oregon Experiment Matters.

Health Share of Oregon is a lean startup organization that administers a Medicaid transformation project involving several healthcare providers and public agencies in metropolitan Portland.  Health Share of Oregon’s broad ambitions, as well as its birthing pains, demonstrate the opportunities and barriers to healthcare transformation efforts that go beyond tinkering at the edges.

I’d like to recognize the great work of Intel colleagues Stephanie Wilson and Prashant Shah, who dug in with Health Share of Oregon’s IT team for about nine months to help get the project started under very tight deadlines. We learned a lot and felt honored to work together with the Portland area health IT community.

In healthcare, it’s the long haul that matters. Although the startup phase may perhaps be the most exciting, the ultimate success of the project will be determined through the ongoing hard work to continuously improve. It will take the whole community of Medicaid providers, IT professionals and health data experts to answer the grand questions of the Oregon Experiment.

Our thanks go out to the whole Health Share of Oregon community for their efforts to create a safer, higher-quality and financially sustainable system for people with lower incomes and barriers to healthcare access.

Because of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, the federal-state program is in need of healthcare leaders and IT professionals willing to innovate.

Do you see innovations happening in your community? What’s working and what’s not working?