Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health Related Sciences

First Advisor

Laura McClelland

Second Advisor

Patrick Shay

Third Advisor

Henry Carretta

Fourth Advisor

Jon DeShazo

Fifth Advisor

Jan Clement


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 enacted one of the most significant reforms seen in the United States healthcare landscape. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) led transformation efforts in regulatory reform and coverage expansion across the U.S. population. Since 2010, care delivery systems have been shifting from episodic, decentralized and fee-for-service models to value-based population health models, like accountable care organizations (ACO). ACOs have been specifically primed for local response to improve the health of their communities. ACO research has traditionally focused on performance measures like mortality, readmissions, quality outcomes and savings. ACO organizational characteristics analyzed in the literature have focused on provider composition, health information technology, leadership structures and provider access. According to CMS, readmissions account for one of the greatest contributors in healthcare spend, and studies by The Commonwealth Fund detail the top percentile of the population as high need, high cost (HNHC) patients who further contribute to the majority of healthcare spend. Opportunity exists to explore the diversity among ACO structures, their relationship to local environments and influence on top contributors to healthcare spend, like readmissions and high need, high cost populations.

The objectives of this study are to better understand existing ACO structures, explore relationships among ACO organizational structures, their local environment in which they operate and directional impact on performance, with emphasis on at risk patients like high need, high cost populations. Theoretically, this study applies Structural Contingency Theory (SCT) for its empirical analyses, specifically a multiple contingency approach. In the extant literature, SCT has not been commonly applied due to its longitudinal nature and limited public access to ACO organizational data.

The study sample consists of 45 ACOs that entered into the Medicare Shared Savings Program under Track 1 for the entire term from 2015 to 2017. ACO performance is represented by total shared savings, change in rate of readmissions and change in rate of inpatient psychiatric admissions. Four contingency-structure relationships are analyzed from the National Survey of Accountable Care Organizations and CMS Public Use Files, 1) ACO governance structure and strategy alignment, 2) Interdependency from complex coordination and formalized provider agreement types, 3) interdependency from complex coordination and formalized relationships with mental and behavioral health specialists, and 4) complex coordination and health IT integration and interoperability. Regression analyses were used to analyzed potential misfit and directional impact on performance and the contingency-structure pairs. Results indicate that wide variety exists among ACO structures, that conventional investments in provider agreements and fully integrated health IT do not clearly present positive performance effect. Future research opportunities exist to further examine the impact ACO programs have on meeting community needs and populations.

This study offers the theoretical application of a multiple contingency approach from Structural Contingency Theory and a practical exploration of ACO structure, its contextual operations and performance on high need, high cost populations.


© Siriporn Patricia Satjapot

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VCU University Archives

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


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