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Spurred by the Affordable Care Act, physicians in Buffalo recently created New York’s first accountable care organization (ACO). Doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers have formed these groups to improve coordination of care for Medicare patients.

As the Uber for healthcare, ACOs aim “to ensure that patients, especially the chronically ill, get the right care at the right time, while avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors,” according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The voluntary arrangement moves healthcare practices from the traditional fee-for-service model to a system of bundled payments or systems that tie payments to quality measures and outcomes.

When they’re successful, both ACOs and Medicare save money.

In Buffalo’s new ACO, about 320 primary care physicians and specialists work with about 65,000 patients, according to The Buffalo News. The Health Affairs Blog reports that more than 800 ACOs are operating so far in the United States, covering at least 28.3 million people. The number of accountable care arrangements will only grow as practitioners respond to government requirements and incentives.

Unfortunately, this effort to treat the whole patient often leaves out behavioral healthcare. Despite strong evidence that providing both primary care and mental health services can improve patients’ physical and mental health outcomes as well as control costs, that integration is rare, according to The Commonwealth Fund. In fact, only 14 percent of ACOs offer anything close to an array of services that attend to both body and mind.

This lapse is a missed opportunity to help patients and control costs. “Unmet behavioral health needs can compound patients’ difficulties in accessing care and adhering to treatment recommendations,” the Fund wrote. “Lack of access to these services may contribute to chronic or ongoing health problems and to increased health care expenditures,” it said.

Statistics bear out the importance of integrating behavioral health care into ACOs. Nearly three-fourths of patients with behavioral health conditions refuse to access care in the behavioral health sector, but are treated in primary care and specialty medical settings, according to a March 2015 article in The American Journal of Managed Care. Further, the article noted, the majority of patients on the rolls of behavioral health settings have co-existing chronic medical conditions.

The bottom line? Patients with both medical and behavioral health conditions make up an important target population for ACOs seeking to improve health outcomes and lower healthcare costs. These patients are the very goal of risk-based contracts.

Crucial to integrating ACOs and behavioral health providers is data-sharing capabilities – one of ClinicTracker’s strengths. Our customizable, intuitive software can accommodate even the most complex setup and allow for sharing patients’ electronic health records. We routinely tailor billing operations that handle intricate payment plans. And we can create reports that meet the requirements of both government plans and those of other funders.

Whether you co-locate behavioral healthcare services in the same facility as primary care or include mental health professionals as part of the primary care delivery team, ClinicTracker’s got you covered. Our software excels at integrating the efforts of multiple providers, supervisors, compliance personnel, front-end staff, and billers.

Patient privacy laws may cause ACOs to hesitate integrating behavioral healthcare. Government rules require additional patient consent before treating providers can share health information, medical or psychiatric. We take those concerns very seriously. ClinicTracker’s secure internal messaging system allows users to send information, links, and signature requests securely to individuals, pre-defined user groups, or the entire agency. Providers can even exchange information about a patient with other agencies.

Our messaging system supports the Minimum Necessary requirement. ClinicTracker Connect lets you choose who has access to what information. Only the right people with the right privileges at the right times can gain access to a client’s personal data.

You can also distribute a patient’s C-CDA through the Patient Portal, where the patient can view, download, or transmit that information through our HIPAA-compliant secure Direct Messaging module.

As ACOs and other forms of exchanges evolve, ClinicTracker can evolve with you, offering secure, customizable tools.

About ClinicTracker

ClinicTracker is a robust, future-proof mental health and substance abuse EHR. Dr. Michael Gordon, a renowned clinical psychologist, and Joshua Gordon, an award-winning software engineer, founded the company in 2000. ClinicTracker EHR’s powerful software empowers your agency to succeed. ClinicTracker will automate all of your clinic routines, boost staff productivity, increase billing efficiency, and provide the tools you need to manage your clinic effectively. While mental health and substance abuse agencies are the most common group of users, foster care agencies, social services, equine assisted therapy programs, university clinics, academic counseling systems, family counseling services, and eating disorder clinics also take advantage of our powerful software.