Two Ways ACOS Can Optimize Data Sharing for Better Care Coordination

December 29, 2022

Article Summary


Different entities within an ACO need access to the same patient information to coordinate around delivering better patient care at lower costs. Despite this clear need for data sharing, organizations face common barriers, including patient confidentiality, cumbersome processes, and legal and compliance considerations. However, ACOs can overcome these barriers with a team mindset and robust data infrastructure. A teamwork approach aligns each system’s goals more closely, ensuring the entire ACO prioritizes patients and their data as the key to better care coordination. Next, organizations need to invest in advanced technologies, including a data platform that easily aggregates and securely distributes patient information to the right people at the right time. These two changes—working together and supporting data-sharing tools—elevate ACO performance and care coordination

aco data sharing

Every inpatient and outpatient episode of care impacts a patient’s health and the attributed total cost of care. As such, increasing demands for better health outcomes while facing revenue reduction and additional administrative expense requirements highlight the critical need for ACOs to share patient data between participating systems. Because multiple organizations within an ACO share the risk of patient care, all participants need access to the same patient information so they can work together to deliver holistic, cost-effective care.

However, data sharing between healthcare organizations within an ACO is complex and presents many considerations. While data is abundant in healthcare, much of it exists in silos because systems lack data aggregation and ACO data-sharing tools. Many healthcare enterprises believe EHRs can break down data silos, but EHRs can’t fully support the robust data sharing needs for effective risk sharing. EHRs also fall short due to their inability to integrate across disparate EHRs in multi-provider/group networks. Meanwhile, health information exchanges can reduce data silos, but they can’t store or analyze the data with the level of granularity ACOs need to deliver better care.

To overcome these ACO data-sharing roadblocks, organizations need data infrastructure that supports seamless data exchange between the systems comprising the ACO. Better data sharing means organizations can access comprehensive patient data to customize care delivery according to patients’ specific needs and ensure appropriate prioritization and outreach for the populations the ACO is responsible for managing. 

Barriers to ACO Data Sharing Delay Collaborative Care and Better Outcomes

Despite a clear need to share and access data, organizations still tend to limit access for a variety of reasons:

  • Patient confidentiality: Some providers claim that other clinicians don’t need to share certain aspects of a patient’s health (e.g., mental health status) to understand why the patient isn’t compliant with his treatment plan.
  • Compromised patient data: Some organizations worry an unauthorized third-party could compromise shared data.
  • Cumbersome processes: Many organizations lack the electronic infrastructure to support easy data sharing.
  • Data governance and management: Leaders have differing opinions about the best way to manage and prioritize data between systems.
  • Legal and compliance considerations: ACO data sharing presents legal, compliance, and oversight considerations including ensuring shared patient information remains private and secure.

Rather than withholding or sequestering information—an impediment to clinical integration progression and success within population health—organizations should act as true data stewards, promoting data sharing to provide the highest quality of care. Acting as a true data steward also means systems and individuals will adhere to all regulatory, compliance, legal, and governance requirements and take appropriate measures to share and protect patient information.

A Team Mindset Plays Critical Role in Care Coordination

Data-sharing roadblocks notwithstanding, as data stewards, healthcare organizations are responsible for sharing data to improve the quality and cost of care. In other words, providers should not treat data as an asset that delivers a competitive edge or a bargaining chip.

It will take courage and foresight to shift the data ownership mentality to a sharing approach, but a collaborative mindset is critical for ACOs to survive in a value-based care landscape. With access to the same patient data, systems within the ACO can better coordinate care delivery, eliminate duplicate procedures (e.g., performing two chest X-rays), and maximize limited resources.

Data Platforms Are the Linchpin to Seamless ACO Data Sharing

Although the increase in ACOs has driven an increase in data sharing, many organizations still face technical barriers to data aggregation and exchange. Advanced technologies and data platforms (e.g., The Health Catalyst Data Operating System (DOS™)) can help remove these barriers by quickly and easily integrating data from multiple data sources for effective data collection and analysis.

With a data platform as a foundation, stakeholders can share data and important insights from the data and use this information to improve the quality and cost of care. This insight from multiple data sources is valuable for programs, such as population health and care management, that depend on the integration of data from every touch point in the patient care process.

ACO Data Sharing and Analytics Infrastructural Elevate ACO Performance

To provide optimal patient care—both in patient experience and outcomes—organizations should invest in data infrastructure that supports ACO data sharing between organizations. Augmenting data-sharing capabilities with a collaborative approach can improve patient care because it provides every organization in the ACO access to the same data for a more complete picture of a patient’s health. This level of care coordination between systems reduces the data collection burden on clinicians and ensures they make decisions with comprehensive, up-to-date patient information—the backbone to achieving better outcomes, restoring patient health, and preventing health decline.

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