The Pharma-tization of ACOs

Posted on May 18, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was sitting in a session at a conference recently that included a representative from a large pharma company. The actual individual and the pharma company are unimportant, but I thought that the comment they made was quite interesting. I don’t think I should have been surprised, because you can turn anything into pharma if you want. Just like I can turn anything into a blog post if I want.

The pharma executive commented on how her pharma company was a little too early to jump on the ACO (Accountable Care Organization) bandwagon. They were going to doctors to tell them about the need to use different drugs in order to provide “more effective” care for patients. By so doing, the doctor will provide better care to the patient and receive a better reimbursement because in the ACO model you’re paid for quality of care not volume.

Let me translate what I believe pharma’s intent really is (although I think it’s quite apparent) in these comments. “You shouldn’t be using our competitors drugs, you should be using our drugs because they’re more effective.” or “You should be using our more expensive drugs because it’s more effective than this cheaper drug.” While a strong generalization, remember the first rule of pharma: Sell more drugs. If this means using the new ACO models to push more drugs so be it. Thus the Pharma-tization of ACOs.

The interesting end to this story was why the pharma executive told us this story. She was really telling us about physicians lack of response to the ACO messaging. Basically this pharma company was ahead of the curve on using the ACO and value based care messaging out there, because physicians aren’t seeing their reimbursement influenced by either today. My guess is that many barely even see ACOs and value based care on the horizon. So, the above pharma messaging was given to deaf ears.