Accountable care organizations (ACOs) are a newly proposed vehicle for improving or maintaining high-quality patient care while controlling costs. They are meant to achieve the goals of the Medicare Shared Savings Program mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010. ACOs are voluntary groups of hospitals, physicians, and health care teams that provide care for a defined group of Medicare beneficiaries and assume responsibility for providing high-quality care through defined quality measures at a cost below what would have been expected. If an ACO succeeds in achieving both the quality measures and reduced costs, the ACO will share in Medicare's cost savings. Health care for patients with end-stage renal disease is complex due to multiple patient comorbid conditions, expensive, and often poorly coordinated. Due to the unique needs of patients with end-stage renal disease receiving dialysis, ACOs may be unable to provide the highly specialized quality care these patients require. We discuss the benefits and risks of a renal-focused ACO for dialysis patients, as well as the kidney community's prior experience with an ACO-like demonstration project. © 2012 National Kidney Foundation, Inc.
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