Physician Leadership in Accountable Care Organizations

A new study published in the June issue of Health Affairs highlights the role of physician leadership in the first wave of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). A research team from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice conducted this analysis. Despite early concerns that hospitals would dominate the leadership within ACOs because of economic strengths, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

With this national survey of ACOs, the research team discovered that the majority identified themselves as physician led, with another third jointly led by both physicians and hospitals. Dr. Carrie Colla, lead investigator of the study, explains that “A central role for physicians in the leadership of ACOs is likely to have a powerful influence on how both physicians and patients view the ACO model.”

Comparing physician-led ACOs to other types reveals that comprehensive care management programs, advanced IT capabilities, meaningful and timely feedback to clinicians, and measurements of financial and quality performance practices were more likely put into place in the physician-led organizations.

The study also highlights the diversity of organizations participating in accountable care programs with some solely composed of primary care physician practices, others of multi-specialty physician practices, and still others of providers across the continuum, such as post-acute care providers and hospitals.

“These findings suggest the physicians are taking seriously their responsibility to lead change in the health care system on behalf of their patients,” said Dr. Elliott Fisher, MD, MPH, Director of Dartmouth Institute and a co-author of the study. Involving physicians in the governance of provider organizations builds trusts and improves communication across the board, showing all members of the ACO that their professional values are well represented. Meritage Medical Network works to involve physicians, hospitals, and specialists in the governance and decision-making capacities of its ACO, not only for the good of its members, but for the benefit of the patients we serve as well.



Medical Xpress. (2014, June 2). First survey of ACOs reveals surprising level of physician leadership. Medical Express. Retrieved from


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