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Hunterdon hospital, Aetna partner to launch ACO

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Hunterdon Healthcare Partners, a partnership between physicians and Hunterdon Healthcare System, will launch this summer a new accountable-care organization with insurer Aetna Inc. to reduce medical costs and improve the delivery of care to its employees and Aetna's members.

The effort is aimed at coordinating care between primary physicians, specialists and Hunterdon Medical Center to 2,200 Hunterdon Healthcare employees and 5,700 Aetna members located in Hunterdon, Mercer, Warren, Morris and Somerset counties.

Accountable-care organizations, or ACOs, represent a new approach to health care delivery that seeks to coordinate medical care, engage patients in their own wellness, and improve health and control costs.

The medical center and more than 235 affiliated physicians and specialists in 66 offices — as well as ambulatory surgery, radiology, hospice and other Hunterdon Healthcare facilities and providers — will join the ACO to flag missed preventative-care opportunities and close gaps in care through Aetna's health information technology network.

"Aetna is just the first of a number of provider partnerships we're looking to form," said Robert P. Wise, president and CEO of Hunterdon Healthcare. "Our extensive primary-care network makes us feel comfortable to address hospital readmission issues, which is at the heart of cost savings and the new model of patient-centered care."

The strategy of the ACO is to reimburse Hunterdon Healthcare for care based on its ability to align payment with patient outcomes, rather than the volume of procedures performed. That's envisioned as a way to improve the health of populations and better coordinate care, while helping Aetna and its members save money.

Wise said health information exchange technology from Medicity, a subsidiary of Aetna, has been "tried, tested and found to be valuable for its ability to combine claims data and electronic medical data," which he said will accurately measure costs and patient outcomes and, therefore, track the ACO's success.

"Going forward, the idea is to create a regional exchange that can connect these individual (insurers), so patients can continue to choose the best products," Wise said. "But until the health insurance exchange law is perfected, we're going to be working with individual providers and setting up different ACO partnerships … in order to make sure we're able to provide similar conveniences of care and cost savings to all of the people we serve."

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