A framework for evaluating the formation, implementation, and performance of accountable care organizations

Health Aff (Millwood). 2012 Nov;31(11):2368-78. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.0544.


The implementation of accountable care organizations (ACOs), a new health care payment and delivery model designed to improve care and lower costs, is proceeding rapidly. We build on our experience tracking early ACOs to identify the major factors-such as contract characteristics; structure, capabilities, and activities; and local context-that would be likely to influence ACO formation, implementation, and performance. We then propose how an ACO evaluation program could be structured to guide policy makers and payers in improving the design of ACO contracts, while providing insights for providers on approaches to care transformation that are most likely to be successful in different contexts. We also propose key activities to support evaluation of ACOs in the near term, including tracking their formation, developing a set of performance measures across all ACOs and payers, aggregating those performance data, conducting qualitative and quantitative research, and coordinating different evaluation activities.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accountable Care Organizations / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / standards*
  • Health Plan Implementation / organization & administration*
  • Health Policy / economics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicare / economics
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Policy Making
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • United States