Crescendo has conducted Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) for many hospitals and done strategic planning, communications, marketing, and other research for scores of others. Upon establishing a relationship with the leadership, it is always fascinating to be “steeped in the personality” of the hospital. The phrase sounds almost cliché, but it is critically important when conducting a CHNA.
Community assessments are meant to do more than to take a pedantic snapshot of one’s service area. They need to be done in a way that syncs with the mission and vision of the executive leadership.
Let me give you an example.
I recently went to a client site in order to conduct a focus group as part of the CHNA process. I decided to get there about an hour early and to learn more about the facility, things that employees are excited about, observe the demeanor of the patients, listen to department heads talk about “new things” they are doing, and anything else I could soak in that would help me better understand the “personality” of the place.
A client project team member was able to escort me around and show me some of the things that make the hospital unique. While seeing the newly renovated auxiliary hallway (now an art gallery with about 20 paintings from local artists) and the gym (open to the public plus a section for cardiac rehab only), I could better understand the energy shown by employees. The energy level is positive even though the facility recently went through a challenging financial period.
Engaging the community with everything from a new ICU layout, to tai chi classes, to therapy [swimming] pools illustrates ways that the facility reaches out to the community in diverse ways to improve health, the patient experience, and use resources wisely. In addition to dovetailing with the hospital’s mission, they address triple aim issues without explicitly working to do so.
Another client – equally successful in their market – focuses on direct care services, pursuing very little direct engagement, or outreach, with providers of diverse health related or community service providers (e.g., health clinics, school nurses, domestic abuse facilities, homeless shelters, etc.). They focus strictly on providing direct care services – including sponsorship of disease screening events and education opportunities (mostly on-site at the hospital). For them, increasing community engagement would dilute their attention to THEIR core vision.
Neither approach is intrinsically right or wrong. Both are staying loyal to their core mission, avoiding the temptation to stray from the hospital’s core mission due to the multitude of legitimate opportunities to help those in need; this takes a lot of discipline and the ability to say, “no” and it is necessary to do so.
When thinking about the goals of a CHNA, many hospital leaders consider some fundamental questions.
- Regardless of what the prioritized list of community health needs looks like, what types of needs are we willing and able to address?
- To what degree do we really want / need to engage diverse community service organization? If we engage them, how do we decide who takes the lead and how do we measure success, and define accountability?
- How can we integrate the CHNA with other strategic planning and marketing initiatives? Is there some way to better leverage our budget dollars to “kill two birds with one stone”?
- How do we stay centered on our Mission Statement while responding to service area needs?
These are core questions that hospitals need to address early in the CHNA process in order to use their resources efficiently.