ACOs with risk-bearing experience are likely taking steps to reduce low-value medical services

Am J Manag Care. 2018 Jul 1;24(7):e216-e221.


Objectives: Accountable care organizations (ACOs) are groups of healthcare providers responsible for quality of care and spending for a defined patient population. The elimination of low-value medical services will improve quality and reduce costs and, therefore, ACOs should actively work to reduce the use of low-value services. We set out to identify ACO characteristics associated with implementation of strategies to reduce overuse.

Study design: Survey analysis.

Methods: We used the National Survey of ACOs to determine the percentage of responding ACOs aware of the Choosing Wisely campaign and to what degree ACOs have taken steps to reduce the use of low-value services. We identified characteristics of ACOs associated with implementing low-value care-reducing strategies using 3 statistical models (stepwise and LASSO logistic regression and random forest).

Results: Responding executives of 155 of 267 ACOs (58%) were aware of Choosing Wisely. Eighty-four of those 155 ACO leaders said that their ACOs also actively implemented strategies to reduce the use of low-value services, largely through educating physicians and stimulating shared decision making. All 3 models identified the presence of at least 1 commercial payer contract and prior joint experience pursuing risk-based payment contracts as the most important predictors of an ACO actively implementing strategies to reduce low-value care.

Conclusions: In the first year of implementation, just one-third of ACOs had taken steps to reduce the use of low-value medical services. Safety-net ACOs and those with little experience as a risk-bearing organization need more time and support from healthcare payers and the Choosing Wisely campaign to prioritize the reduction of overuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accountable Care Organizations / organization & administration*
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Humans
  • Medical Overuse / prevention & control*
  • Quality Improvement
  • United States