John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News

We’re hearing a lot about the looming world of accountable care organizations, or ACOs, especially with Monday’s unveiling of the 32 “pioneer” organizations.

For some operators, these new partnerships offer the promise of new opportunity. But this new healthcare delivery model is also making plenty of operators tense and morose.

One of the best analogies I’ve heard about ACOs is that they will be like taking a European vacation. But not just any European vacation: one in which the inhabitants of each country speak a different language – and nobody speaks English. In other words, you have to figure out how to be conversant everywhere you go.

So it will be with ACOs. You want to work with hospitals? You’d better know the terms they use. Hint: think Diagnosis-related Groups, not Minimum Data Set. And by the way, that especially goes for your billing and caregiving data. Lotsa luck to the operators using data platforms that are less mobile than the patients they care for.

Believe me, unprepared operators are going to be in for a rough journey.