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How Do Accountable Care Organizations Deliver Preventive Care Services? A Mixed-Methods Study



The Affordable Care Act and the introduction of accountable care organizations (ACOs) have increased the incentives for patients and providers to engage in preventive care, for example, through quality metrics linked to disease prevention. However, little is known about how ACOs deliver preventive care services.


To understand how Medicare ACOs provide preventive care services to their attributed patients.


Mixed-methods study using survey data reporting Medicare ACO capabilities in patient care management and interviews with high-performing ACOs.


ACO executives completed survey data on 283 Medicare ACOs. These data were supplemented with 39 interviews conducted across 18 Medicare ACOs with executive-level leaders and associated clinical and managerial staff.

Main measures

Survey measures included ACO performance, organizational characteristics, collaboration experience, and capabilities in care management and quality improvement. Telephone interviews followed a semi-structured interview guide and explored the mechanisms used, and motivations of, ACOs to deliver preventive care services.

Key results

Medicare ACOs that reported being comprehensively engaged in the planning and management of patient care - including conducting reminders for preventive care services - had more beneficiaries and had a history of collaboration experience, but were not more likely to receive shared savings or achieve high-quality scores compared to other surveyed ACOs. Interviews revealed that offering annual wellness visits and having a system-wide approach to closing preventive care gaps are key mechanisms used by high-performing ACOs to address patients' preventive care needs. Few programs or initiatives were identified that specifically target clinically complex patients. Aside from meeting patient needs, motivations for ACOs included increasing patient attribution and meeting performance targets.


ACOs are increasingly motivated to deliver preventive care services. Understanding the mechanisms and motivations used by high-performing ACOs may help both providers and payers to increase the use of preventive care.

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