Beacon Health Accountable Care Organization
- Need: To implement coordinated healthcare to improve patient health and engagement and to reduce the overall cost of medical services in Maine.
- Intervention: The Beacon Health network launched with a focus on patient-centered care to improve overall wellness and reduce ever-increasing healthcare costs.
- Results: Through care coordination, Beacon Health is enhancing provider efficiency and a team approach to delivering care, leading to improved patient engagement and healthcare quality and lowering the overall cost of care.
In 2012, Northern Light
Health, which serves the state of Maine, through its
population health member, Beacon Health, began an
Accountable Care Organization (ACO) network. Beacon
Health partners participate in the
Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).
Although family providers initially had a sense of losing
control due to ACO quality measures and guidelines, they
realized that the thorough data required by CMS helps
them provide more seamless and personalized patient care
in the long run. Providers participating in the Beacon
Health network now have concrete information to support
continual process improvement that encourages and
promotes consistent care. Patients are experiencing
improved quality of life and care that is tailored to
their needs and more affordable. Making healthcare more
proactive and offering specialized care management, the
network is achieving cost savings for Medicare,
employers, and patients.
As an ACO, Beacon Health is able to support primary care
medical home teams. Being a part of larger organizations
gives smaller practices the opportunity to invest in
people and programs such as licensed social workers who
would have been out of budget range otherwise. Practices
also have potential access to new grant funding. The
real-time data, human capital, and other general
resources are tools many rural sites would not gain
access to on their own.
The video below discusses in depth the structure and
impact of the Beacon Health network:
- Clinical coordinators who help patients understand
healthcare and provide guidance to the most appropriate
clinical and social services for them
- Specialized nurse care manager for patients with a
chronic disease, recent emergency department visit, or
discharge from a hospital or skilled nursing facility
- Community care teams, including nurses and licensed
social workers, who help patients with social services in
their homes and local communities
- Data surveillance and analytics. This infrastructure
is imperative in tracking quality measures and metrics
not only required by Medicare but also health insurance
- Patient feedback systems, patient representatives
attending the Beacon Health monthly Population Health
Conference, and advisory group gatherings for parents and
Since 2012, Beacon Health grew from a network of 9,000
Medicare beneficiaries to nearly 28,000, as well as
commercial plans including nearly 18,000 employees and
dependents on the Northern Light Employee Health Plan.
The program cares for roughly 105,000 individuals across
Maine, most of whom reside in rural areas. The Beacon
Health high-value network now has 114 primary care
practices and 559 providers.
In 2013, the Beacon Health nurse care manager program was
accredited by the National Committee for Quality
Assurance. In 2014, Beacon Health was ranked 2nd among
ACOs based on
33 ACO quality measures required for observation by
The cost-saving measures initially targeted by Beacon
Health ACO were potentially avoidable emergency
department visits and hospital admissions and
Shared savings included:
- First Agreement Period
- Performance years 2016-2018: $0
- Second Agreement Period
- Performance year 2019:
ACO Investment Model funding of $1,745,716
- Performance year 2020:
From 2012 to 2014, per 1,000 patients:
- Hospital admissions were down 34.3%
- Medical/surgical admissions were down 46%
- Readmissions were down 71.2%
Through its Beacon Health program, Northern Light Health
- Reduction in unnecessary emergency department visits
- Reduction in avoidable admissions for asthma, heart
failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- An increase in patient satisfaction and engagement in
- Coordinated care and outreach that has cut out
unnecessary/duplicative and preventable procedures
- Having nurse care managers requires the forethought
in budgeting to fund these new ACO teammates.
- Data surveillance and analytics require a hefty
- "Team sport" mentality can take some adjustment. It's
important for providers to realize that their
responsibility extends beyond their office and that they
have a team to support them.
- There are multiple quality measures that providers
must keep in mind, and that can be a bit of an overload.
This includes answering to the hospital administration
and measurements from the ACO.
Provider involvement and leadership are necessary to make
an ACO work among multiple practices. In addition, nurse
care managers, social workers, and data analytic experts
are potentially the most important factor in managing the
array of healthcare services residing within an ACO.
Embedded care managers seem to be more effective than
outsourced programs, as they are able to visit both
patients and providers in person.
Accountable Care Organizations
Health information technology
November 5, 2015
Date updated or reviewed
October 4, 2022
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub,
Beacon Health Accountable Care Organization [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at:
[Accessed 25 February 2024]
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information
about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.