Accountable Care Organizations’ Performance in Depression: Lessons for Value-Based Payment and Behavioral Health

Nathaniel Z. Counts, Glenda Wrenn, David Muhlestein

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Value-based payment initiatives, such as the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), offer the possibility of using financial incentives to drive improvements in mental health and substance use outcomes. In the past 2 years, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) participating in the MSSP began to publicly report on one behavioral health outcome—Depression Remission at Twelve Months, which may indicate how value-based payment incentives have impacted mental health and substance use, and if reforms are needed. For ACOs that meaningfully reported performance on the depression remission measure in 2017, the median rate of depression remission at 12 months was 8.33%. A recent meta-analysis found that the average rate of spontaneous depression remission at 12 months absent treatment was approximately 53%. Although a number of factors likely explain these results, the current ACO design does not appear to incentivize improved behavioral health outcomes. Four changes in value-based payment incentive design may help to drive better outcomes: (1) making data collection easier, (2) increasing the salience of incentives, (3) building capacity to implement new interventions, and (4) creating safeguards for inappropriate treatment or reporting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2898-2900
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • behavioral health
  • depression
  • mental health
  • payment reform
  • value-based payment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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