Ok. Help me. I’m lost. What on earth is the difference between an ACO and a PCMH? Let’s define them and see if that helps.

Accountable Care Organizations (ACO):
According to CMS.gov, an ACO is a group of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, who come together voluntarily to give coordinated high quality care to their Medicare patients. The goal is to ensure patients, especially the chronically ill, get the right are at the right time while avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors.

Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH):
According to the NCQA, it is a health care setting that facilitates partnerships between individual patients, and their personal physicians, and when appropriate, the patient’s family. Care is facilitated by registries, IT, HIE, and other means to ensure that patients get the indicated care when and where they need and want it.

While the difference may not be obvious it’s there. A PCMH is a smaller version of the ACO – a primary physician strives to provide patients with better coordination of care, access to services, prevention, quality and safety within the practice. An ACO is larger – it looks to have multiple primary care providers and practices work together. In essence, an ACO is like a PCMH “neighborhood.” An ACO is larger and can serve a larger population of people. However both are focused on improving health outcomes for their patients through care coordination. That wasn’t so bad was it?