Accountable care organizations are a big, new experiment with few results to show yet, but one in Nashville threw a party this week to celebrate its early success metrics and announce a partnership with the state's largest insurer.

MissionPoint Health Partners is an initiative of the Saint Thomas Health System, the No. 1 player in the Nashville market (barely) and a subsidiary of Ascension Health. On a rainy Tuesday morning, healthcare stakeholders and media crowded into the Bridge Building on the Cumberland River to hear executives tout the first-year results of the pilot: a decrease of 12 percent in costs for the initial 15,000 patients, participation from 1,500 physicians (initial goal was 400), and growth to 50,000 members. The group also announced new partnerships with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, LEAD Public Schools (a group of charter schools), and Kohl's department stores.

The goal of ACOs is to better manage patient populations, lower costs, and reward physicians and hospitals for improved outcomes. MissionPoint CEO Jason Dinger described the project's use of health managers, divided among teams focused on transitional care (as in hospital discharges), disease management, and social services. The first patients under MissionPoint were Saint Thomas? own employees, and one of its RNs, Jennifer Bethune, gave a moving testimony of how she had lost her husband in the summer of 2012 and was able to cope with the help of MissionPoint's health managers. The LEAD Public Schools founder spoke briefly about the group's three charter schools, whose students and staff will get free services from MissionPoint. An executive from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee talked about how more than a half million Blue members will have an accountable care option starting next year in a partnership with MissionPoint. (Dinger didn?t elaborate on what exactly the 12 percent in cost savings meant ? whether that was compared to a control group or the pilot group's previous costs, and HLI was unable to get details later.)

It was a well-orchestrated event, right down to the table centerpieces featuring fruit with matching flowers (bananas and lemons with yellow tulips, orange gerbera daisies with citrus, red tulips with strawberries and apples). MissionPoint is Nashville's first ACO, and a lot is riding on its success. After starting with Saint Thomas? own employees as patients, it has expanded to include Medicaid patients and in July 2012 was selected to participate in the Medicare Shared Savings Program. The Saint Thomas Health System includes five hospitals, numerous specialty centers, and some of the most highly regarded physicians in Nashville. It is in a tight race for market share with for-profit TriStar Health Systems and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. It is also working with other Ascension Health hospitals in Detroit and Austin, Texas, to help them develop their own narrow networks, and it is expanding Kohl's wellness centers that provide care for the department stores? employees.

Visible from the Bridge Building where the MissionPoint event was held are Nashville's downtown high rises, and not far away are housing projects and working class neighborhoods. To succeed, MissionPoint has to serve all of those constituencies, and save money in the process. So far, they?re claiming success.

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