back

Accountable Care Organizations Demand Health IT Employees

With the cost of Medicare soaring, lawmakers have been searching for ways to trim the program and make healthcare more proactive and efficient. The Accountable Care Organization (ACO) has rapidly emerged as one way to accomplish this.

ACOs consist of various medical care providers—physician groups, private practices, specialties, hospitals—voluntarily teaming up to plan all aspects of healthcare for Medicare recipients under one network. The idea is that information sharing and collaboration between various service lines and facilities will present the best opportunities to promote patient wellness and preventative care while reducing errors and redundancies.

Behind these initiatives lies the ever-burgeoning demand for health information technology (IT) experts, because they possess the ability to help organizations realize all the promise and potential of new health care reform.

The purpose of ACOs, first of all, is to revisit the concept of coordinated care—not exactly like HMO networks in the past, but as a more holistic approach to establishing value.

ACOs consist of various medical care providers—physician groups, private practices, specialties, hospitals—voluntarily teaming up to plan all aspects of healthcare for Medicare recipients under one network. The idea is that information sharing and collaboration between various service lines and facilities will present the best opportunities to promote patient wellness and preventative care while reducing errors and redundancies.

With medical providers taking more responsibility for patients’ overall health, Medicare can potentially save millions in reimbursement dollars. The incentive for doctors and hospitals, in turn, is that every member of the ACO gets a share of the savings it provides to Medicare.

Unlike the traditional relationship between health care services and Medicare, where costs were driven higher through the proliferation of patient testing and procedures, ACOs present a fundamental shift in the way Medicare interacts with providers because the ultimate goal is to make preventive care more lucrative than reactionary care.

Although it remains to be seen how much money can actually be saved, the potential for savings under coordinated care has created a rush in the healthcare industry to consolidate under ACOs. Since the initiative was launched in January 2012, more than 600 ACOs have officially formed around the nation, with even more organizations subscribing to various features of the model.

Adding fuel to the popularity of ACOs is the accelerated development of EHRs and the wealth of analytical information they offer to providers. EHRs make full coordination between health services more attainable than ever.

However, though EHRs and meaningful use encourage ACOs, there are challenges associated with their formation. Creating a seamless network requires a huge initial investment, and although EHRs are a great tool for facilitating these networks, they require appropriate experts beyond implementation to mine data and decipher results.

Analytics firm identifies a shortfall of qualified health informatics workers

There are some obstacles, however. The demand for health informatics workers is projected to grow at twice the rate of employment overall, and there is strong evidence that the nation already faces a shortage of qualified workers in this field, according to an analysis of job postings by Boston-based labor market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies in Missed Opportunities? The Labor Market in Health Informatics, 2014

According to the Burning Glass report, health informatics jobs remain open longer than the national average, a sign that employers are struggling to fill these positions. Many of these new jobs are hybrid positions that require skill sets from different disciplines.

This shortage poses a significant challenge to ACOs and other organizations that are relying on EHRs to help facilitate coordinated care. Without well-trained health IT professionals, the situation is analogous to a racecar that boasts all the latest high-performance technology, but has no driver behind the wheel.

This opens up a world of potential for those interested in pursuing a career in health IT. Whether a Nursing Informatics Specialist, Health Informatics Consultant or Health Informatics Director, a career that combines the emerging worlds of technology and healthcare will likely have a successful future.

Get program guide
YES! Please send me a FREE brochure with course info, pricing and more!