4 steps to build effective community partnerships

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Community partnerships are critical to address public health needs, and a new report offers several best practices to promote that type of alignment.

The Advisory Board examined successes and failures in 18 U.S. communities that began to form such coalitions as part of its BUILD Community Partnerships program, which kicked off in 2015. The program seeks to promote data-driven and integrated local partnerships, according to a post announcing the report’s (PDF) release, and through the experiences in those initial communities it drilled down to several key steps to growing those partnerships.

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"Healthcare extends well beyond care settings—into homes, schools, and neighborhoods," Rebecca Tyrrell, senior consultant, research at Advisory Board, said in the announcement. "Hospitals and health systems can improve community health by addressing the nonclinical factors that influence health in their neighborhoods, since partnerships with community organizations can address the upstream causes of poor health."

The report recommends the following best practices to promote population health management and collaboration across the continuum of care:

  1. Connect with leaders at partner organizations to promote engagement. Go into community partnerships with the same mindset as any other organizational alignment, according to the report. Set expectations for the resources each group will commit and follow guidelines to track the success of the partnership.
  2. Define and prioritize goals. Make sure goals and directives are clearly defined so everyone is on the same page, according to the report, and be transparent about decision-making. Take advantage of both qualitative and quantitative data at your disposal.
  3. Build new partner relationships and strengthen long-standing ones. Hospital leaders should be visible in the community—attend meetings and integrate partnership structures that may already be in effect, the report suggests. Promote shared decision-making and ensure that you don't duplicate responsibilities.
  4. Ensure screening and referral protocols are seamless. Include non-clinical data in care planning discussions, the report suggests, and acknowledge limitations on data collection from the get-go. Designate a person or group to take ownership of resource collection so team members know who to talk to for those concerns.

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