Q: What's the difference between an Accountable Care Organization
(ACO) and a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH)?
A: The PCMH is an enhanced primary care delivery model that strives to achieve better access, coordination of care, prevention, quality, and safety within the primary care practice. Its aim is to create a strong partnership between the patient and primary care physician. In the PCMH model, payers often reward providers with bonuses for improving primary care services for each patient in the medical home.
The ACO is also based around a strong primary care core. But ACOs are comprised of many "patient-centered medical homes" along with a network of specialty practices and even hospital(s) — in other words, many primary care providers and/or practices/facilities working together. Some have even dubbed ACOs the "medical neighborhood."
The difference is that ACOs would be accountable for the cost and quality of care, both within and outside of the primary care relationship, and serve as an umbrella for all PCMH and specialty care practices. As such, ACOs must include specialists and hospitals to be able to control costs and improve health outcomes across the entire care continuum.