Community Needs Assessment: Why We Do It and What We Learned
To meet the requirements of the Patient and Protection and Affordable Care Act for non-profit hospitals, the Internal Revenue Service asks hospitals like the Buchanan County Health Center to complete a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years. The process used a compilation of the most recent local, state and national data, as well as the opinions of representative stakeholders from across the Buchanan County community.
Quantitative data was gathered from the United States Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), Iowa Work Force Development, Iowa Hospital Association, Buchanan County Public Health Department, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – Community Health Status Indicators (CHSI), Buchanan County Economic Development Commission, and the 2011 Iowa Health Fact Book.
Qualitative data was gathered from two focus groups including business and government leaders, members of the local healthcare community, representatives serving low-income families, and several active senior-aged community members. Focus group participants were asked for input in three areas relevant to community health and well-being: access to care, hospital emergency services and barriers to healthcare.
Overall, the findings show Buchanan County is healthy. Access to healthcare services was identified as the primary factor for a healthy community. The focus groups stated they wanted BCHC to continue to offer as many services as possible close to home. They noted that segments of the population could not travel out of town. Others valued savings on hassles and time as a result of receiving local care; one noted that “the more available, the less cost that comes out of the consumer’s pocket with travel expense.” Focus groups concluded that the addition of obstetric services and an urgent care clinic would better meet the needs of the community.
Diabetes, obesity and alcohol use were identified as the three most serious health concerns in the county by data analysis. The high frequency of obesity was cited in the focus groups as a community concern along with the need of preventive wellness, specifically in the school systems. Buchanan County Health Center received high accolades relating to high-quality, comprehensive care provided, based on the focus group feedback.
Based on the finding of this assessment, the Buchanan County Health Center Board of Trustees has approved the following recommendations:
- Work to increase the access-to-care ratio of population to primary care providers (BCPH partnership). Specifically, focus group participants indicated a desire to see urgent care services and continued emergency department coverage.
- Focus group participants would also like to see the hospital form strategic partnerships, i.e., public health, school system, clinic, etc., to gather input on how to collectively address needs identified from the survey. Assess if any non-health related organization could support the health needs of the community.
- Provide/Support community wellness and education opportunities to improve health behaviors specific to Buchanan County.
- Diabetes education and disease management
- Pursue an ongoing dialogue with the communities served regarding the value of local utilization, and grow Buchanan County Health Center’s existing reputation for providing excellent care with customer-friendly service.
- Incorporate developed goals into the organization’s strategic plan, and communicate and share assessment results with the community’s service.