Better population health requires hospital-community partnership

To improve population health, small and rural hospitals need to engage the community. So the American Hospital Association released a new guide that describes how small and rural hospitals can develop effective community partnerships, noted AHA News Now.

Using a population health partnership checklist, hospitals should take into account the representation and composition of leadership and governance roles; specific partner-related resources; internal and external partner communication methods; clearly defined care delivery roles; and the collection, storage, sharing and utilization of information, according to the new AHA guide.

While these facilities face the unique challenges of inadequate infrastructure and limited staffing, their small size and isolated location create several population health management opportunities, the guide noted.

For example, as one of the largest employers in communities with limited healthcare options, small and rural hospitals have stronger brands and long-term patient relationships.

To take advantage of these opportunities and form meaningful community partnerships, the AHA guide recommends small and rural hospitals have their leaders serve on community boards, as well as put community representation on hospital boards. They also should financially support community groups or form joint ventures with them.

Moreover, small and rural hospitals must merge resources and skills with community partners to provide expansive and complex health management programs, according to the guide. With community partners, hospitals can tap into new resources, such as marketing assistance, additional staff, volunteers and translators. Hospitals also can obtain care delivery assistance and access to health data with community partnerships, AHA noted

Strong connections with community organizations, such as nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, are vital to bundled payment success, according to health system leaders at the AHA'S annual meeting in April. "You don't want to be caught there not having relationships," warned Ray Montgomery, president and CEO of White County Medical Center in Searcy, Ark.

To learn more:
- here's the AHA News Now brief
- check out the guide