Published on October 27, 2016
The odds are good that your nearest healthcare system has conducted a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) sometime within the last few years.
The odds are even better that you haven’t read it.
A mandate created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2013, the CHNA is a report that provides a systematic mapping of the health status of a population, along with an implementation plan to meet community health needs. Not-for-profit health systems are required to conduct a CHNA every three years.
Health system leaders and governing boards can treat the CHNA process in two ways. Some organizations take a “check-the-box” approach – they do the minimum work required to satisfy their regulatory obligations. A report is written, printed, and published online… and then the health system goes back to business-as-usual. The report sits on a shelf. Three years later, this process repeats.
Simply checking the box can save costs in the short term, but it completely misses the point of doing a CHNA – ensuring that your health system is meeting the needs of your community. Executives and boards can’t know if they are on the right track unless they talk to real people, analyze data, and then use these insights to inform strategic planning and operations.
A somewhat radical alternative to checking the box is to treat the CNHA as a source of competitive advantage. If your health system can use the CHNA process to develop a detailed understanding of the communities you serve (and the ones you don’t serve), these consumer insights can serve as your blueprint for becoming more responsive, more customer-facing – and more relevant.
Highly innovative health systems will take the insights provided by the CHNA process and operationalize them. After all, communities are constantly evolving. Population needs, risks, and opportunities don’t follow a three-year planning cycle. The data that informs your CHNA, and the insights your CHNA reveals, can be updated much more frequently than every three years – in some cases, in real time. With help from vendors like Carrot Health, health systems can turn the CHNA into a real-time roadmap for consumer success.
Transforming your CHNA from a static, once-every-three-years snapshot into a dynamic management tool will allow your leadership team and board to begin to quantify, measure, and monitor consumer performance. Your health system already tracks quality and financial metrics. By operationalizing your CHNA, you will be able to track consumer metrics and answer questions such as:
- How effectively are we serving our community?
- How well is our health system aligned to community needs?
- How is our performance trending over time?
Health systems that learn how to use the CHNA as a source of competitive advantage will be well positioned to thrive as the health care industry continues its shift towards fee-for-value reimbursement and population health. These organizations will be the ones that are truly engaged in the conversations and health journeys happening in their communities.
To learn more, register for our three-part webinar series, “Governing in an Era of Accountability: Community Needs, Data, and Diverse Stakeholders”, co-presented with Integrated Healthcare Strategies. The first webinar is on Tuesday, November 1, at 10:30 Central time.