The Impact of Accountable Care: How Accountable Care Impacts the Way Consumers Receive Care

ACOs are changing the way health care is delivered and paid for. What is not changing is the goal: the right care at the right time and the right place.

The Issue

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs)—groups of physicians, hospitals and other health care providers—coordinate care across the health system in order to improve outcomes for patients and lower costs for the health care system over time. They do this through health information technology, better communications and care coordination staff. ACO payments are tied to value and quality, not volume.

Key Findings

These researchers explored the question: “What does being in an ACO mean for a consumer?”

  • Improved care coordination—primary care, specialists, hospitals, home health and others work together to ensure that a patient receives the most appropriate care.

  • Health information technology tools maximized—providers exchange medical information, reducing duplication of tests and procedures. Patients access their medical information through patient portals.

  • Engaged Patients and families—ACOs have the means to deliver care aligned with patient, goals, preferences and values.


Most consumers currently in an ACO are unaware that they are, although they have a positive experience of the care received. If told they were part of an ACO, 80 percent said they would continue with their ACO doctors and the ACO. If patients knew more about ACOs they could engage more effectively as partners in their care and in the governance of the ACO. 

About the Study

This issue brief, one of six in a series called “The Impact of Accountable Care,” was prepared by the National Partnership for Women & Families and Leavitt Partners with RWJF support.