Accountable care organizations were implemented as a system-level approach to address quality differences and curb increasing healthcare costs in the United States of America, and have garnered the interest of policy makers in other countries to support better management of patients. The objectives of this paper are to: (1) identify the impacts of accountable care organizations on improving the quadruple aim goals of improving patient experience of care, enhancing population health outcomes, reducing the per capita cost of health care and ensuring positive provider experiences and (2) determine how and why such impacts have been achieved through accountable care organizations.
We used a rapid review approach, searching Health Systems Evidence (for systematic reviews) and PubMed (for reviews and studies). Results were reviewed for inclusion independently by two researchers. Data were extracted by one reviewer and checked for consistency by another.
We identified one recent systematic review and 59 primary studies that addressed the first objective ( n = 54), the second objective ( n = 4) or both objectives ( n = 1). The reviewed studies suggest that accountable care organizations reduce costs without reducing quality. Key findings related to objective 1 include: (1) there are positive trends across the quadruple–aim outcomes for accountable care organizations as compared to Medicare fee-for-service or group physician fee-for-service models; (2) accountable care organizations produced modest cost savings, which are largely attributable to savings in outpatient expenses among the most medically complex patients and reductions in the delivery of low-value services; (3) accountable care organization models met the majority of quality measures and perform better than their fee-for-service counterparts and (4) there is relatively little evidence about the impact of accountable care organizations on provider experience. Qualitative studies related to objective 2 highlighted mechanisms that were important for enabling accountable care organizations, including supplemental staff to enhance coordination and accountable care organization-wide electronic health records.
General trends and increased adoption of models similar to accountable care organizations outside of the USA suggest that these models outperform traditional fee-for-service models across the quadruple aim goals, although with mixed evidence about health outcomes.