Hospital-community partnerships require all stakeholders to understand community benefit

As healthcare increases its focus on value-based models and preventive care, how to address the socioeconomic determinants of health often comes under the microscope. In light of this, it is vital that hospitals and healthcare providers partner with community institutions, but such initiatives will only succeed if both sides understand the stakes, according to a Health Affairs blog post.

While many major players such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have explored such partnerships at the national level, nonprofits must also explore partnerships with community organizations at the local level,  writes C.J. Eisenbarth Hager, director of healthy community policies for St. Luke's Health Initiatives (SLHI). Due to their tax status, non-profits are required to provide a "community benefit" to their patient population.

SLHI, a Phoenix-based health foundation, has discovered in its work that community partners often don't understand just what this requirement entails or how it could affect their work. So it recently developed a guide to the implications of the community benefit requirement for community health advocates. For example, Hager cites the case of HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Medical Center in Phoenix, which partners with Desert Mission Neighborhood Renewal, a nonprofit community development firm, that offers homebuyer education, affordable housing development and commercial redevelopment. 

Meanwhile, the Iowa Hospital Association's annual Community Benefits Report found the state's nonprofit hospitals contributed $1.21 billion in community benefits in 2014, including $2.88 million in charity care, $41 million in community health improvement efforts and $57.2 million in research.

The community benefit requirement has long been a bone of contention within healthcare, with advocacy groups in July asking the Internal Revenue Service to reconsider its definition of community benefits, which currently do not allow nonprofit providers to claim housing as a benefit, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the blog post
- here's SLHI's guide (.pdf)
- check out the IHA report