Oct 30 2012
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Public Health and Hospitals: Resources for Partnerships

Several sessions at this year’s American Public Health Association meeting include brass-tacks guidelines for initiating and furthering partnerships between public health and hospitals to improve community health. In a session yesterday, Michael Bilton, who co-founded and leads the Association for Community Health Improvement of the American Hospital Association, spoke about the value of partnerships between public health and hospitals, since both have requirements to complete similar community needs assessments.

Health departments seeking public health accreditation must complete a community needs assessment, and non-profit hospitals must complete community benefits reports every three years under the Affordable Care Act.

Bilton pointed out that for many communities, the collaboration won’t be one that starts from scratch. San Francisco has had a community benefit requirement for non-profit hospitals since 1994, “which promoted a sense of collaboration in many communities,” Bilton told the audience at the APHA session.

Bilton says the collaboration also aligns with the National Prevention Strategy, released by the Surgeon General last year, which is promoting partnerships across federal agencies to improve community health.

>>Read an interview series on the National Prevention Strategy on NewPublicHealth.

Bilton says the Strategy specifically points to community needs assessments as a way to identify and begin working on many of the priorities in the Strategy. “And those priorities have already been identified by many hospitals,” says Bilton. The joined forces of hospitals and public health departments also help achieve the “triple aim” of additional goals stressed in the Affordable Care Act including improving improving care, improving health care quality and reducing costs. These collaborations underscore the notion that helping to manage population health is the role of hospitals as well, said Bilton.

Bilton advised public health officials anxious to collaborate with hospitals on community benefit requirements to do several things including:

  • Become acquainted with hospital regulations
  • Approach hospitals as early as possible in your process
  • Find out who is leading the assessment
  • Ask hospitals about their assessment  process and goals
  • Offer to help hospitals with with data, communications,  facilitation or staff expertise, as appropriate  
  • Balance short term needs such as fulfilling IRS or accreditation requirements with longer term opportunities—sustained health improvement collaboration.

>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth interview with Laurie Cammisa from Children's Hospital Boston on community benefit collaboration. 

Tags: APHA, Accreditation, Community Benefit, Public and Community Health