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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Does Being Part Of A Pediatric ACO Equal Better Health Care For Children With Disabilities?

Children with disabilities are at higher risk for poor physical, psychological and social health than children without disabilities, placing them among the most vulnerable populations. A recent study co-led by researchers at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health explores whether being part of an accountable care organization (ACO) improves health care for these children.

An article on the findings, titled “How does being part of a pediatric accountable care organization impact health services use for children with disabilities?” was published online August 7 by the journal Health Services Research. Lead author Dr. Paula Song, associate professor, and senior author Dr. Marisa Domino, professor, are both faculty in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Gillings School.

Emerging from the Affordable Care Act, ACOs are a new model of health care delivery designed to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care. ACOs are, essentially, groups of providers who assume collective responsibility for the overall care of a specific population and share in any savings associated with improved quality and efficiency. Much of the existing research about ACOs, however, focuses heavily on Medicare and commercial ACOs, with relatively little evidence for high-risk Medicaid populations.

“With this study, we examined the impact of a Medicaid-serving pediatric ACO on health care services use for children with disabilities,” says Dr. Song. “Ultimately, we found that being part of an ACO seems to improve quality of care in certain areas — such as adolescent well-child visits — but there may be room for improvement in other areas, like home health services, which are considered important by patients and their families.”

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