Hospitals and communities: Understand the patient population

Hospitals and health systems need to define their role in the community as they navigate the ever-changing healthcare environment, Becker's Hospital Review reported.

To do so, hospitals first have to understand their patient populations. For St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, that meant looking at regional, national and international populations based on different service lines. For example, inpatient services attract local patients with chronic conditions, while cardiology, orthopedics and spine and transplant services bring patients from across the country and world to the 381-bed hospital.

Hospitals also can use healthcare-reform mandated community health needs assessments to better understand community members. For Maury Regional Medical Center's patient population, the greatest health issues include obesity and related diseases, cancer, heart disease and stroke, The Columbia Daily Herald reported.

The 241-bed hospital in Columbia, Tenn., is taking action to improve the community's health by focusing on those issues identified by its community health needs assessment. Knowing the health needs of the community, Maury Regional plans to recruit new physicians and offer new educational programs to local schools on nutrition, exercise and smoking cessation.

"Hospitals can do their part by providing services that help with the early diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases that are affecting our community," Maury Regional Medical Center CEO Alan Watson said in an emailed statement to the Herald.

In addition to knowing the populations they serve and what health issues they face, when defining their role in their community, hospitals must figure out what kind of relationship to have with community members, Becker's noted.  "A lot of analysis and soul searching goes into it, to say 'How do we want to relate?'" Cathy Fickes, R.N., president and CEO of St. Vincent, told Becker's.

"The strategic planning process is part of your team-building process of listening to your doctors, your managers and directors, evaluating your patient population and looking at the outside world and saying 'Where do we fit in this world?'" Fickes explained.

For more:
- here's the Becker's article
- read the Columbia Daily Herald article