ACOs and Medication Management

Recent research has shown that many accountable care organizations (ACOs) have room for improvement, with a key finding being the potential value of expanding the role of pharmacists in the ACO environment. Under ACOs, pharmacists have the ability to offer advice about the effectiveness and value of medication options and the opportunity to ensure efficient and consistent pharmacotherapy. This is an important role for pharmacists, especially in caring for patients with chronic illnesses who often take several medications and rely on the expertise of different care providers. (See Are ACOs Ready to Be Accountable for Medication Use).

In research published in the February 2014 Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy, several ACOs share the steps they have taken to better integrate pharmacists and pharmacy services into patient care management. They are doing so through two ways, according to the research:  “(1) an embedded model, whereby pharmacists are employed directly by a physician practice, or (2) a ‘virtual care team’ model, whereby a PCMH [Patient-Centered Medical Home] or ACO develops an arrangement with external pharmacists in community settings to provide coordinated services.”

The researchers point out that “pharmacists in community settings are well positioned to provide complementary and synergistic services virtually to PCMHs and ACOs. Including pharmacists in the PCMH and empowering them to perform comprehensive medication reviews, resolve medication-related problems, optimize adherence interventions, and recommend cost-effective therapies will enhance patient care in a cost-effective manner.”

More solutions are being developed in this area, and additional case studies will be forthcoming to help ACOs maximize the value of medications.