4 steps to maximize hospital community health efforts

All stakeholders in the healthcare industry must take four steps in order for hospitals to improve population health within their communities, according to an opinion piece from the Brookings Institution.

There has long been consensus within healthcare that meaningful population health management requires collaboration with community institutions, but hospitals that actively work to improve community health face numerous challenges, according to Brookings Senor Fellow Stuart M. Butler. Those obstacles include lack of information-sharing and the fact that there is no direct financial incentive to invest in community partnerships beyond avoidance of financial penalties.

"Hospitals are usually seen as the last resort in their communities--the place you go when other things fail. Yet they have enormous potential to be partners in improving the general health of the community," Butler writes. "Unfortunately, there are obstacles to them playing this role. These need to be fixed."

To maximize hospital involvement in community health improvement, he writes, the industry must:

  • Fine-tune the process and measures for identifying economic and social benefits of community benefit work
  • Make information-sharing and coordination easier between hospitals, schools, government agencies and others, such as the case of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, spearheaded by the Urban Institute to integrate data to strengthen community partnerships
  • Provide flexibility within government budgets and payment systems at all levels to ensure return on investment is shared among all participants, including healthcare providers
  • Develop new forms of investment capital to provide incentives for innovation at hospitals, such as Maryland's fund to promote hospital initiatives that promote community health

To learn more:
- read the opinion piece