Community Health Needs Assessment

By Bob Humphrey

Under the Affordable Care Act, not-for-profit hospitals must conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment at least once every three years in order to assess community need and annually file information (by means of Schedule H, Form 990) regarding progress toward addressing identified needs. This can involve partnerships with other clinical, public health and population health focused organizations. I recently came across a tool that could help your local hospital easily conduct such an assessment.

On March 10, 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the updated Community Health Status Indicators (CHSI) online tool that produces public health profiles for all 3,143 counties in the United States. Each profile includes key indicators of health outcomes, which describes the population health status of a county and factors that have the potential to influence health outcomes, such as health care access and quality, health behaviors, social factors and the physical environment.

The online application includes updated peer county groups, health status indicators, a summary comparison page, and U.S. Census tract data and indicators for subpopulations (age groups, sex and race/ethnicity) to identify potential health disparities. In this new version of CHSI, all indicators are benchmarked against those of peer counties, the median of all U.S. counties, and Healthy People 2020 targets.

Organizations conducting community health assessments can use CHSI data to:

  • Assess community health status and identify disparities.
  • Promote a shared understanding of the wide range of factors that can influence health.
  • Mobilize multisector partnerships to work together to improve population health.

Community Health Needs Assessments have potential for beneficial use by rural hospitals well beyond satisfying federal reporting requirements, including the capacity to serve as rich information and local data sources for new endeavors, both internal and external. Community health needs assessments and implementation strategies should be devoted to providing rural hospitals with the information needed to fully identify the broad health needs of their communities, ensuring their efforts are best aligned in every way reasonably possible to the needs of those they serve.

In addition, a thorough analysis of the data in your county should give you further insight on initial steps that you must take as you move from a fee-for-service payment system to a value-based reimbursement system. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.