Effect of Accountable Care Organizations on Emergency Medicine Payment and Care Redesign: A Qualitative Study

Michelle P. Lin, Anna Revette, Brendan G. Carr, Lynne D. Richardson, Jennifer L. Wiler, Jeremiah D. Schuur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Study objective: Accountable care organizations are provider networks aiming to improve quality while reducing costs for populations. It is unknown how value-based care within accountable care organizations affects emergency medicine care delivery and payment. Our objective was to describe how accountable care has impacted emergency care redesign and payment. Methods: We performed a qualitative study of accountable care organizations, consisting of semistructured interviews with emergency department (ED) and accountable care organization leaders responsible for strategy, care redesign, and payment. We analyzed transcripts for key themes, using thematic analysis techniques. Results: We performed 22 interviews across 7 accountable care organizations. All sites were enrolled in the Medicare Shared Savings Program; however, sites varied in region and maturity with respect to population health initiatives. Nearly all sites were focused on reducing low-value ED visits, expanding alternate venues for acute unscheduled care, and redesigning care to reduce ED admission rates through expanded care coordination, including programs targeting high-risk populations such as older adults and frequent ED users, telehealth, and expanded use of direct transfer to skilled nursing facilities from the ED. However, there has been no significant reform of payment for emergency medical care within these accountable care organizations. Nearly all informants expressed concern in regard to reduced ED reimbursement, given accountable care organization efforts to reduce ED utilization and increase clinician participation in alternative payment contracts. No participants expressed a clear vision for reforming payment for ED services. Conclusion: Care redesign within accountable care organizations has focused on outpatient access and alternatives to hospitalization. However, there has been little influence on emergency medicine payment, which remains fee for service. Evidence-based policy solutions are urgently needed to inform the adoption of value-based payment for acute unscheduled care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-608
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020


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