Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced a collaboration with McFarland Clinic in Ames to create an accountable care organization. The new ACO will focus on coordinating patient care to improve quality, provide greater value, and slow increases in health care costs.

In an ACO, providers assume responsibility for managing a population of patients, both those who are healthy and those who are in need of care, no matter where in the system the patients receive care. Clinic physicians will receive financial rewards from Wellmark if they reach established quality goals and slow the rate in increase in health care spending in caring for these patients.

Dr. Michael Kitchell, chairman of the clinic's board of directors, called the ACO a "natural fit" with its mission.