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Practical Commissioning's Jargon Buster explains the meaning of the term 'HMO'.

Health Maintenance Organisation. The term comes from the US where it means an organisation that provides health care coverage and treatment through contracted providers to a defined population.

Kaiser Permanente (KP) is one of the HMOs that is often cited as an example of well-managed care and has influenced Department of Health policy. Last November, health secretary Andy Burnham praised KP's integration of health and social care in a speech to the Urban Institute in Washington DC. He suggested this provided a model for co-coordinating early intervention with the management of long-term conditions to deliver high quality holistic care.

There has been speculation about whether PBC groups that move into provision will ultimately become HMOs, although leading commissioning GPs say there has been little movement in this direction so far.