Accountable care organizations hold many opportunities for nurses to shine, associations say

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Nurses have numerous reasons to be pleased the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has updated accountable care organization guidelines, several nursing organizations maintain.

The recently updated guidelines emphasize care coordination, wellness, teamwork and health education — all areas of expertise for nurses in all healthcare sectors, according to the American Nurses Association's senior policy fellow Cynthia Haney. Originally, she found CMS' original guidelines for ACOs, released in April, “baffling” and said they lacked “explicit recognition of nurses.” Now, however, she says the final guidelines incorporate entire portions of from her association's recommendations.

ACOs were created by the Affordable Care Act with the goal of lowering overall costs by better coordinating preventive, acute and long-term care. They also aim to improve the management of chronic illness for at-risk patients, and improve safety and quality.

"All of these areas are things where nurses play very important roles, and in many cases more important roles than physicians play," said Harold Miller, president and CEO of the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement.

Additionally, advanced practice nurses are a perfect fit for ACOs, according to Susan Apold, RN, Ph.D., director for health policy and dean of the Division of Health and Human Services at Concordia College New York in Bronxville.  "If we look at outcome-based care, that's even better for us than fee-for-service care,” she said. “We stand to shine brightly in a system that looks at outcomes."

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