Assessing Community Health Needs

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires not-for-profit hospitals to conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) once every three years – and develop an implementation plan to meet community health needs. Finalized in 2014, the requirements surrounding a CHNA are very specific.

Whether or not your hospital has 501(c)(3) status – which triggers the need to complete a CHNA – conducting an assessment of the existing health needs within your community is a best practice both for your hospital and for the patient population you serve. The following recommendations are designed to help you get organized, go through the development process, and produce an implementation plan.

The CHNA Development Process

Define and map your service area. To start, identify the geographic area you serve. Review patient origin data. Are there other available data sources that could help you more clearly define your area? At this stage, it’s important to identify the area based on where your patients currently reside.

Collect and analyze data. Assess your study area, including demographics and health status. What is the age and ethnic make-up of your service area? What about population growth? Are more families moving into your area, or is the population declining? Investigate mortality data, chronic disease categories and health behaviors. Identify minority populations and evaluate access to healthcare services.

Reach out to gather community input. You may be surprised about what your community really needs. Seek feedback from leaders and groups who represent broad community interests. Consider state and local governmental public health departments, members of medically underserved populations and minority populations, or even written comments received on your hospital’s most recently completed CHNA. Beyond these groups, input from other individuals and groups — including community leaders, local school districts and universities, health care consumer advocates, health insurance and managed care experts, or local Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) or Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) — could also be relevant.

Document and communicate results. Now it’s time to pull together and organize all the data you’ve collected for the CHNA, documenting:

  • A definition of the community you serve; your hospital’s mission, vision and values and study area demographics
  • Methodology and sources of data
  • Community input, health status of the area, collaboration with other organizations
  • A prioritized list of significant community health needs with an evaluation of the impact of any actions taken since completion of the previous CHNA
  • Description of how to provide feedback to the facility

Be Prepared for an Audit

Lastly – and important to keep in mind – some hospitals that are required to conduct a CHNA are now being audited. This applies to small or rural hospitals as well as larger systems. Here are a few things to keep in mind that regulators are looking for:

  • Whether your CHNA prioritizes community needs
  • Which needs your hospital will address
  • If the full CHNA report is prominently posted on your hospital website with access from your homepage
  • Documentation that your CHNA has been adopted by your hospital board

Need More Information?

You can learn more about CHC’s Community Health Needs Assessment and Implementation Strategy services – even download our CHNA process document — or reach out to us. We have completed CHNAs and Implementation Plans for more than 70 hospitals across many states – from community health centers and critical access hospitals to specialty hospitals and large multi‐hospital systems. We are here to help.

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