Essential Elements of Accountable Care Organizations

The Essential Elements of Accountable Care Organizations course was developed to provide interested physicians and healthcare executives an opportunity to acquire a sound introduction into the design, development and operation of accountable care organizations — an evolving model combining patient access, care quality and cost-effective utilization of healthcare services.

Program Advantages

Program participants have access to:

  • Asynchronous online content delivery that allows participants to select the time and place to review course content
  • Multiple learning resources including custom and public domain videos, online access to articles and case studies, and unit quizzes graded upon completion to provide immediate feedback
  • Innovative content that consolidates information from multiple sources and provides participants key insights into multiple facets of accountable care organization (ACO) planning and implementation
  • Networking opportunities with colleagues and program faculty by leveraging the online learning community.
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  • Connect with the Director
  • Program Details
  • Course Content
  • FAQs

Connect with the Director

Please contact the director for more information about the Essential Elements of Accountable Care Organizations course.

Michael J. Deegan, M.D., D.M. Director, Essential Elements of Accountable Care Organizations

Program Details

The asynchronous nature of the course allows participants to choose when and where they “go to class” — whether at home, in the office or while traveling.

The course has eight content units. A new unit will be posted every three weeks, allowing course completion in six months. It is anticipated each unit will require six to seven hours of participant effort to review content and complete the unit quiz. Unit-specific continuing medical education credits will be awarded based on successfully passing each unit quiz.


The program is open to licensed physicians (MD or DO) and experienced healthcare executives. It should prove beneficial to physicians considering starting or joining an ACO, physicians serving on an administrative or clinical committee as part of an ACO, primary-care physicians in independent practice or working in a patient-centered medical home, and specialists interested in gaining insight into ACOs to decide whether to join or maintain an arm’s length referral or contractual relationship with an ACO.

Program Fee

The current program fee is $2,800, payable in full at enrollment. The fee includes access to all course materials; videos, assigned readings, case studies and unit quizzes.

Payment may be made online or by personal check payable to The University of Texas at Dallas. Detailed payment instructions will be sent with a notice of admission.

To enroll, complete and submit the course application. In addition, please forward a copy of your current medical license to mike.deegan@utdallas.edu.

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When complete, applications will be promptly reviewed and an email notice of admission sent to each applicant. The latter will include a link connecting the applicant to a UTD site where payment can be made by credit card or an address for a personal check payable to The University of Texas at Dallas.

Full payment is required before an applicant is registered and receives an invitation to the eLearning platform, where he or she enrolls by creating a user name and password.

Course Content

The Essential Elements of Accountable Care Organizations course is intended to meet the following learning objectives:

  • Acquire the vocabulary, definitions and concepts applicable to ACOs and value-based medicine.
  • Become familiar with key ACO design elements.
  • Become acquainted with organizational and legal alternatives for ACOs.
  • Learn to recognize, assess and mitigate financial and clinical risks associated with ACO formation.
  • Be able to describe the key information technology, data analytics and performance-measurement requirements to assure ACO efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Examine the components of the value equation and learn to use each to enhance an ACO’s ability to provide high quality, cost-effective care.

To achieve these objectives course content is presented in eight units as follows:

  1. Introduction to Accountable Care
    a. Context
    b. Terms and Definitions
    c. Essential Elements
  2. Critical Leadership Competencies
    a. Context for Today’s Healthcare Leaders
    b. Critical Competencies
    c. Critical Competencies in Action
  3. ACO Structural and Functional Elements
    a. Organizational Readiness
    b. Organizational Alternatives
    c. ACO Providers, Contractors and the Care Continuum
  4. Legal Aspects of ACO Formation
    a. Antitrust and Other Applicable Law
    b. Financial Risk and Clinical Integration
    c. ACO Legal Structure Alternatives
  5. Budgets, Resource Allocation and Financial Risk
    a. Patient Attribution
    b. Estimating Healthcare Costs
    c. Shared Savings Distributions
  6. Information Technology, Performance Metrics and Data Analytics
    a. Core IT Elements for Managing Patient Populations
    b. A Balanced Scorecard for an Accountable Patient Population
    c. MACRA, MIPS and ACOs
  7. Clinical Risk Assessment and Population Health Management
    a. The CMS-HCC Risk Adjustment Model
    b. CMS-HCC and the MSSP ACO Model
    c. Caring for Patient Sub-Populations
  8. Value-Based Healthcare Delivery
    a. Defining Healthcare Value
    b. Barriers to High Value Healthcare
    c. Shifting reimbursement from Volume to Value

Course content is delivered using a variety of media including video, audio, assigned readings and case studies available on a 24-hour, seven-day basis on the BlackBoard-enabled eLearning platform. Custom-content videos are professionally produced and accompanied by public domain supplementary videos used to expand on important topics or provide alternate perspectives regarding uncertain or controversial topics.

A complete set of the slides used in the custom videos is available for note-taking or content review. Case studies expand participant awareness and provide specific examples and insights to transferable practices.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What will I learn by participating in this course?

    The course is designed to provide a convenient readily accessible overview of the key elements of accountable care organizations — a relatively new model that links care delivery and financial reimbursement in a risk-bearing relationship between providers and payers.

    Participants will learn the key structural and functional components of ACOs, legal alternatives for ACO formation, the essential role of information technology and clinical informatics, how to assess clinical and financial risk and how to organize care delivery for accountable patient populations — a key component for providing value-based care.

  • Can I fit the course into my busy professional and personal life?

    Course material is available on a 24-hour, seven-day basis from any internet location.

    It is anticipated that engaged participants will invest six to seven hours reviewing the content of each unit every three weeks for six months — about two hours per week.

  • What is the online education experience like?

    Using a tablet, laptop or desktop computer and a high-speed internet link participants can easily access content through the course homepage at their convenience.

    Each unit’s content is maintained in a folder where a single click opens custom and supplementary videos, assigned readings, case studies and unit quizzes.

    A benefit of online learning is one’s ability to return to any of the course materials for a second or third look or to clarify a point or observation.

    Overall, program participants have been pleased with their online learning experience with regard to ease of access, quality of content and the use of multiple learning modalities.