Key Collaborative Factors When Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations Work with Primary Care Clinics to Improve Colorectal Cancer Screening: Relationships, Data, and Quality Improvement Infrastructure


Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are implementing interventions to achieve triple-aim objectives of improved quality and experience of care while maintaining costs. Partnering across organizational boundaries is perceived as critical to ACO success.


We conducted a comparative case study of 14 Medicaid ACOs in Oregon and their contracted primary care clinics using public performance data, key informant interviews, and consultation field notes. We focused on how ACOs work with clinics to improve colorectal cancer (CRC) screening – one incentivized performance metric.


ACOs implemented a broad spectrum of multi-component interventions designed to increase CRC screening. The most common interventions focused on reducing structural barriers (n = 12 ACOs), delivering provider assessment and feedback (n = 11), and providing patient reminders (n = 7). ACOs developed their processes and infrastructure for working with clinics over time. Facilitators of successful collaboration included a history of and commitment to collaboration (partnership); the ability to provide accurate data to prioritize action and monitor improvement (performance data), and supporting clinics’ reflective learning through facilitation, learning collaboratives; and support of ACO as well as clinic-based staffing (quality improvement infrastructure). Two unintended consequences of ACO-clinic partnership emerged: potential exclusion of smaller clinics and metric focus and fatigue.


Our findings identified partnership, performance data, and quality improvement infrastructure as critical dimensions when Medicaid ACOs work with primary care to improve CRC screening. Findings may extend to other metric targets.