The first year of our Aledade Louisiana ACO has been marked by excitement, growth, cooperation, and a deep commitment to population health. But, even as our network of providers and partners strives daily to improve quality of care through better coordination, we face a new challenge. This week, Louisiana experienced a 500-year flood in the areas surrounding our ACO. The Aledade family sends its heart out to our Louisiana ACO providers and patients affected by the flooding.

While no one can be fully prepared for the impact of a natural disaster, we are confident the primary care physicians in our Louisiana ACO are ready for the challenge ahead. The 2016 Aledade Louisiana ACO is made up of five leading practices in Acadiana committed to delivering the best possible care to the communities they have long served. In conjunction with our seven (and growing) new practices in our 2017 class, these providers will now serve as the first point of contact for thousands of patients who have been without medications, home monitoring, and even cell phone contact with their health care providers for the better part of a week.

One recent Aledade initiative has been particularly vital in helping the ACO respond to this disaster. This spring, Dr. Joshua Israel joined Aledade as the Mental Health Director. In this role, Dr. Israel leads Aledade’s efforts to integrate mental health into primary care practices. One in five American adults suffers from a mental health condition, and mental health treatment costs are $100 billion annually. Given this, ACO physicians who are responsible for their patients’ total health and cost of care must be prepared to manage their patients’ mental health issues. As the front line in a patient’s health care, primary care physicians are well positioned to identity, manage, and coordinate their patients’ mental health needs given their unique knowledge of and relationship with patients. In his first days at Aledade, Dr. Israel helped connect practices with behavioral health resources in a similar tragic flood in West Virginia, and he has helped us in Louisiana quickly provide our employees with tools to help our practices on the ground.

In addition to strengthening care capabilities through Aledade initiatives, the Louisiana ACO practices have benefited from local organizations committed to advancing value-based care. In particular, one local partner, iMedCORE, has become a great asset for their expertise in value-based care and the tools providers need to deliver it. In Louisiana, iMedCORE has led education efforts to support the shift to value-based care among Aledade providers and throughout the greater provider community. When expanding our network locally, we look for partners committed to helping our providers better serve their patients through care coordination, and iMedCORE has been working hard for our members to do just that.

That said, perhaps the biggest development for our Louisiana ACO this year is our partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. As the first organization to bring a progressive group of independent physician practices to the Blue Cross of Louisiana Value Program/shared savings contract, Aledade has helped to align the payers and the practices as never before – setting the stage for future independent practice partners. We have also created a model for other Aledade ACOs to reach out to and better negotiate deals with the largest payers in their states.

The most effective piece of the partnership is Aledade practices’ access to Blue Cross patient data all integrated into the Aledade app. What this means is that rather than using two separate patient registry and care management platforms, the ACO primary care doctors can use the same technology for across their patient population – whether public or private payer. Not only does this reduce practices’ administrative and technology cost burdens, but increases practices’ ability to conduct population health management that leads to better health outcomes and lower costs.

At Aledade, our goal is to partner with primary care doctors to help empower them to deliver the highest quality care in a value-based health care system. While no community should have to deal with the terrible effects of a natural disaster, we are proud of our ACO providers in Louisiana who we know will fight through this challenge to support the communities and patients they care for so dearly.