ACPE Supports Findings of New Study on Physician Leadership in ACOs

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Report by Dartmouth Institute says physician leaders are essential for reform.

Physician leadership is key to creating change within health care, particularly when it comes to the adoption of Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs, a new study has found.

A research team from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice analyzed the National Survey of ACOS and found the majority identified as physician-led. The study also found physician-led ACOs were more likely to collect and report quality and financial data, and had more advanced IT capabilities.

The researchers go on to conclude that “the challenge of fundamentally changing care delivery as the country moves away from fee-for-service payment will not be accomplished without strong, effective leadership from physicians.”

The findings, published in the June issue of Health Affairs, re-enforce the results of a white paper on the benefits of physician leadership released last month by the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE).

The white paper found that hospitals and health systems perform better when physicians assume leadership roles. As evidence, the report cited several studies, including data from CMS which showed that 21 of the 29 Pioneer ACOs that saved enough to generate a bonus were physician-led.

“We are gratified the report in Health Affairs confirms what we have long believed: Strong physician leadership is essential to the advancement of improvements in health care,” said Peter Angood, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, FCCM, president and CEO of ACPE and the co-author of the white paper. “It is clear that physician leaders are leading the way toward better, more innovative forms of patient care.”

Both reports touch on some common themes, particularly in the area of physician engagement. Because they share a common language and history with most clinicians, physician leaders are more likely to empathize with the demands of their colleagues’ clinical responsibilities and to make decisions sensitive to their needs. This builds trust within the health care team and leads to better outcomes.

"Physicians' buy-in to payment reform is likely to be critical to the success of the health care reform," said Elliott Fisher, MD, MPH, director of the Dartmouth Institute and a co-author on the paper. "The findings suggest that physicians are taking seriously their responsibility to lead change in the health care system on behalf of their patients."

View the ACPE white paper –“The Value of Physician Leadership.”

About ACPE:

ACPE is the nation's largest health care organization for physician leaders. Since its founding in 1975, the primary focus of the College is providing superior leadership and management skills to physicians of all types and encouraging them to assume more active leadership roles in the health care industry. In addition to training more than 100,000 physicians, the organization has grown to more than 11,000 members, including chief executive officers, chief medical officers, vice presidents of medical affairs, medical directors and other physician leaders from more than 45 different countries.

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Carrie Johnson
American College of Physician Executives
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