The federal government is altering a previously announced accountable care organization model to help it target the social determinants of health of the patients it serves.

The Accountable Health Communities model, launched by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation in January, has been modified to target “community-dwelling Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries with unmet health-related social needs.”

According to a CMS fact sheet,

The foundation of the Accountable Health Communities Model is universal, comprehensive screening for health-related social needs of community-dwelling Medicare, Medicaid, and dual-eligible beneficiaries accessing health care at participating clinical delivery sites. The model aims to identify and address beneficiaries’ health-related social needs in at least the following core areas:

  • Housing instability and quality,
  • Food insecurity,
  • Utility needs,
  • Interpersonal violence, and
  • Transportation needs beyond medical transportation.

Addressing the health-related associated with social determinants of health has long been one of the major challenges private safety-net hospitals face.

iStock_000005787159XSmallCMS anticipated participating ACOs serving their members through annual screenings of needs, increased dissemination of information about how to address health-related social needs, and appropriate referrals to community resources to meet those needs.

Among the organizations invited to apply to participate are community-based groups, health care organizations, hospitals and health systems, institutions of higher education, and government entities. In recognition of the need for a more patient-focused approach than CMS proposed in January, the number of members participating ACOs must serve has been reduced the potential award amount has been raised.

To learn more about the Accountable Health Communities model, why it has been modified, what it hopes to accomplish, and how it will operate, see this CMS fact sheet.