In an effort to increase collaboration with other heath systems in the state and manage costs more efficiently, the University of Michigan Health System joined eight other organizations in officially recognizing the Physician Organization of Michigan as an Accountable Care Organization on Thursday.

ACOs were authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, to better coordinate patient care and share cost savings with Medicare. Primarily composed of University of Michigan Health Systems physicians, POM’s new status as an Accountable Care Organization allows it to work with other ACOs across the country in providing better access and higher-quality care for patients.

The Michigan group was among 106 organizations across the country named ACOs Thursday.

Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare, said in a conference call that this program is a prelude to the eventual status of health care as a whole.

“We feel this program is not only our future but really the future of health care, and that is really as we are changing towards value-based health care,” Blum said.

At a press conference, noting that the program is specifically targeted to improve care for particularly susceptible patient groups.

“Our mission is … really about improving the quality of care — especially for vulnerable and at risk populations,” Blum said.

David Spahlinger, associate dean for clinical affairs, will be leading POM, according to UMHS. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, POM’s forerunner group saved Medicare $22 million between 2005 and 2010. The overall savings averaged $2,499 per patient.

“Their focus on transition calls, needs assessment for ongoing care management, development of comprehensive care plans, integration with primary care sites and medication reconciliation played a role in the resource reductions of this vulnerable population,” Spahlinger said in a Sept. 2012 statement. “We know that quality improved in addition to our cost reductions, making this a double win for patients and the agencies that provide their coverage.”

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was one of the speakers on Thursday’s conference call.

“Accountable Care Organizations save money for Medicare and deliver higher-quality care to people with Medicare,” Sebelius said. “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more doctors and hospitals are working together to give people with Medicare the high-quality care they expect and deserve.”

Blum said it’s “too early for us to talk about results” but is optimistic about the success of earlier ACO programs.

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