rcm glossary

One-sided risk

One-sided risk is a situation in healthcare RCM where the financial burden or potential loss is borne solely by one party involved, without any shared responsibility or accountability.

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What is One-Sided Risk?

One-sided risk is a term commonly used in the healthcare industry, particularly in the context of value-based payment models and accountable care organizations (ACOs). It refers to a situation where only one party, typically the healthcare provider or organization, bears the financial risk associated with the quality and cost of patient care. In other words, the provider assumes the responsibility for any potential financial losses or gains resulting from the care provided to patients.

In a one-sided risk arrangement, the healthcare provider's reimbursement is tied to the achievement of certain performance metrics, such as improved patient outcomes, reduced hospital readmissions, or cost savings. If the provider fails to meet these metrics, they may face financial penalties or reduced reimbursement. On the other hand, if the provider exceeds the performance targets, they may be eligible for additional financial incentives or bonuses.

Difference between One-Sided Risk and Two-Sided Risk

To better understand one-sided risk, it is important to differentiate it from two-sided risk. While one-sided risk places the financial burden solely on the healthcare provider, two-sided risk involves the sharing of financial risks and rewards between the provider and the payer, such as Medicare or private insurance companies.

In a two-sided risk model, both the provider and the payer have a stake in achieving certain performance goals. If the provider meets or exceeds the targets, they may receive financial incentives or bonuses. Conversely, if the provider falls short of the goals, they may face financial penalties. This shared responsibility encourages collaboration between the provider and the payer to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.

The shift from one-sided risk to two-sided risk is often seen as a progression in value-based care models. It incentivizes providers to actively participate in care coordination, preventive measures, and population health management, as they have a direct impact on the financial outcomes.

Examples of One-Sided Risk Arrangements

To illustrate the concept of one-sided risk, let's consider a few examples:

1. Pay-for-Performance (P4P) Programs: Many healthcare organizations participate in pay-for-performance programs where they are rewarded based on meeting specific quality and cost targets. For instance, a hospital may receive a bonus if they achieve a certain percentage of patient satisfaction scores or successfully reduce the average length of stay for specific procedures. In this case, the hospital assumes the one-sided risk of potential financial penalties if they fail to meet the targets.

2. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs): ACOs are groups of healthcare providers who collaborate to deliver coordinated care to a defined patient population. In one-sided risk ACO models, the participating providers are responsible for meeting quality and cost benchmarks. If the ACO fails to achieve the desired outcomes, they may face reduced reimbursement or penalties. However, if they succeed in improving patient outcomes and reducing costs, they may be eligible for shared savings or bonuses.

3. Bundled Payment Initiatives: Bundled payment programs aim to align the financial incentives of multiple providers involved in a patient's care episode, such as a joint replacement surgery. In a one-sided risk bundled payment model, the hospital or healthcare system assumes the financial risk associated with the entire episode of care. If the costs exceed the predetermined bundled payment amount, the provider absorbs the additional expenses. Conversely, if the costs are lower than the bundled payment, the provider may retain the savings.


One-sided risk is a crucial concept in healthcare revenue cycle management, particularly in the context of value-based payment models. It refers to a situation where the healthcare provider assumes the financial risk associated with the quality and cost of patient care. Understanding the difference between one-sided risk and two-sided risk is essential for healthcare organizations navigating the transition to value-based care. By embracing one-sided risk arrangements, providers can actively engage in care coordination, preventive measures, and population health management to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.

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