In 2020, United Hospital District (UHD) commissioned a community health needs assessment to evaluate the healthcare needs of its service area: Faribault, Freeborn, Martin, and Blue Earth Counties in Minnesota, and Kossuth and Winnebago Counties in Iowa.
Community health needs assessments (CHNAs) are a planned and systematic effort to better understand the health needs of the community. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires tax-exempt hospitals such as ours to create a community health needs assessment every three years. This valued feedback from the community creates an important opportunity to identify key priorities and build valuable relationships to collaborate on solutions. CHNAs also provide an opportunity to improve coordination of hospital community benefits with other community efforts to create a healthy, vibrant population.
The CHNA requirements include:
To assist with the assessment, UHD contracted with the National Rural Health Resource Center, headquartered in Duluth, Minnesota. The Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustaining and improving health care in rural communities. The Center conducted demographic analysis and statistical research and surveys for the focus groups and key community stakeholder interviews were developed.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions the focus groups were held virtually and included residents from several different communities in UHD’s service area and represented young parents, seniors, veterans, schools, businesses, healthcare consumers, and social services. The key stakeholder meetings were one-on-one 60-minute interviews and included representatives of education, law enforcement, local business, faith leaders, and other community and elected leaders.
The information collected from the focus groups and key stakeholder interviews was used to produce the CHNA report, including recommendations for key items to be included in UHD’s 2020 Strategic Plan. UHD has identified three CHNA-related goals for the hospital to achieve over the next one to three years:
Provide & Promote Education Information & Opportunities to the Communities We Serve.
UHD has created an internal team tasked with defining goals and action plans in relation to this. The team is investigating how best to promote better education regarding the varied services available at UHD and is exploring the methods to disseminate the information, i.e. via YouTube, podcasts, radio, and other outlets.
Match the Scope of Services with the Needs of the Communities We Serve. The CHNA results encouraged UHD to continue developing partnerships with businesses, faith groups, and schools (including schools in within the counties but not located in Blue Earth).
UHD has created an internal team for this as well. The team is exploring the feasibility of a Community Paramedicine/service delivery position. This entails meeting with the Medical Director of the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board to assist with the development of policy and protocol, outcome analysis and quality assurance initiatives.
Promote, Partner, and Enhance Mental Health Services
As in many communities, there is an opportunity to address issues related to mental illness. Following best practice recommendations, this is not something the hospital can do alone.
An internal team has been created to coordinate efforts in this area. The team has already engaged UHD’s Mental Health (MH) providers to appear on local radio once per month with a program dedicated to various MH topics. The MH resource information on UHD’s website has been augmented with numerous additional links for patients. The team is also looking to collaborate with local school districts, nursing homes, and veteran’s agencies to identify and connect services. UHD also continues to explore options for outpatient telehealth.
In addition to the above goals, UHD also supports interest in healthcare careers within the high school system.
Focus group and key stakeholders noted the ways UHD partners with the school system to support careers in healthcare. A similar initiative to “grow our own” social workers, counselors, and community workers/peer support services could be considered.
UHD collaborated with the local Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) to create a video for high school students showcasing the many job opportunities and careers available in the area.
Through the UHD Foundation, scholarships are available for students from the six high schools in UHD’s service area who have been accepted into an accredited healthcare major. The Foundation will also be providing a scholarship to a graduate school student or a college senior who will be enrolling in graduate school (Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant).