Research Points To ACO, Pharma Firm Collaboration

The relationship between Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and the pharmaceutical industry has drawn attention since the Pioneer ACOs started forming in 2012. Critics and proponents alike have questions about how pharma and the ACOs will work together, particularly as it relates to the divergence of rising drug prices and the ACO initiatives to streamline costs.
Phoenix Healthcare conducted in-depth interviews with ACO executives to understand their current relationship with pharma and explore how the two can work together for mutual success.
The interviews illustrated that ACOs, in many cases, are still in their infancy but are becoming more comfortable in their objectives. Jackie Polyakov, Vice President at Phoenix Healthcare, remarks, “Our research shows us that in many ways it’s still business as usual within the ACOs. Even sales rep access to physicians has not changed broadly at this point, and the day-to-day practice of physicians has changed very little.”
Polyakov continues, “The key changes to this point are around value-based thinking. While many of the planned initiatives for the ACOs have not been fully implemented, the organizations now have a clear attitudinal emphasis on cost cutting and patient results. But the application hasn’t yet caught up to the approach. And this opens up opportunities for pharma, particularly in areas where ACOs will be measuring their success.”
For example, several organizations discussed the early stages of their disease management programs for diabetes and cardiovascular conditions and suggested that a broader, unbranded education program focusing on adherence issues could be a way for the pharmaceutical industry to participate.
ACOs are also seeking assistance with patient materials to round out their treatment education. Key topics include the importance of adherence, the management of side effects and the value of preventative measures such as vaccines and wellness screenings.
Overall, the general tenor of the ACO executives we interviewed was positive. Although many commented that it was still too early to tell, they are happy with the decision to become an ACO. One chief medical officer noted, “It’s worth it. We’re paid in proportion to doing the right thing.” Many are looking forward to their organization’s growth through more physician participation and partnering with other facilities and practices, including labs, imaging centers, and specialists to provide better care. The process, however, will take coordination between ACOs and pharmaceutical manufacturers in a partnership relationship to optimize success for both parties.
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