3 ways hospitals can engage the community to improve care

Though many hospitals have made strides to improve population health by forming public health partnerships with other organizations, that's merely one of the ways healthcare leaders can engage their communities, according to an article from Hospital & Health Networks (HHN).

"We know that, to impact health, it is about socioeconomics, healthy behaviors and the physical environment. It's much more than the actual medical care," Maulik Joshi, president of the American Hospital Association's Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET), told HHN.  "As hospital leaders, we need to continue to broaden our thinking of who we partner with to get to those things and sharpen how we go about it."

Based on HRET's recently released guide, "Hospital-Based Strategies for Creating a Culture of Health," as well as examples of effective public health initiatives, HHN made some of the following suggestions for hospitals looking to better engage their communities:

  • Take the pulse of the community. Relying solely on data when crafting a public health initiative is woefully inadequate, HHN warns. It points to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, which had far greater success reversing negative health trends in its community once it decided to poll residents about their health needs and concerns.

  • Think outside the clinic. Churches can be key partners in community engagement, FierceHealthcare previously reported. In one example cited by HHN, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tennessee, noting that the African-American population had a high rate of readmission, deployed "navigators" to congregations throughout the region to help patients get needed services, educate them about their care and provide smooth transitions from hospital to home.

  • Be social. Engaging patients through social media has been embraced by an increasing number of hospitals, as FierceHealthcare previously reported, but many facilities have barely scratched the surface in terms of harnessing the power of these online tools. Noting one study that found Twitter can be used to more accurately track seasonal flu outbreaks, HHN suggests that health leaders use social media to reach broad swaths of communities and answer basic questions about health concerns.

To learn more:
- read the article