A Community Health Needs Assessment (or CHNA) survey is a widely used tool by a variety of governmental public health agencies and hospital systems to improve the overall health of the community through priority identification and strategy implementation. The CHNA survey becomes the linchpin in identifying needs, examining problem areas, and exploring strengths among healthcare offerings within a given region. A CHNA survey is conducted every three years and results are typically benchmarked from prior studies to understand growth and decline with specific strategies.
Here are 4 tips to help you conduct a better community health needs assessment (CHNA) survey:
- Talk to key stakeholders one-on-one – although your hospital or healthcare team that is in charge of writing your CHNA report may be small, look outside of your organization for thought-leaders. Just because other key healthcare community leaders may not have an active role in your CHNA doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to spend 20 to 30 minutes with you to interview them. These in-depth interviews (IDIs) are always a great first step for your CHNA because the feedback is global and exploratory. It will help you refine and prioritize next step items for community-wide surveying efforts. These IDIs are a great way to get internal and external community stakeholders on board with your efforts. Focus on getting a variety of organizations and roles within organizations to provide a broad spectrum of feedback for the qualitative portion of your report. RMS recommends using IDIs over focus groups from this portion of the CHNA to allow organizations with potential competing interests speak freely in a one-on-one session instead of a group.
- Get input from residents through a phone survey – RMS recommends using a quantitative telephone survey to obtain this information so the data can be both in-depth and reliable. Some hospitals and agencies also choose to open up an online portal for residents to take an online survey or fill out a mailed paper survey that is sent to households. RMS has seen other organizations use resident focus groups to obtain input. The key here is to involve community members. Some CHNAs completed in the past rely far too heavily on secondary data sources such as Census information and CDC metrics to develop findings.
- Publicize your efforts in local media – let the community know of this large undertaking from your agency or system and ask for their assistance in assessing the needs of the healthcare community. Awareness can be built through flyers, newspaper stories, social media, and through local chambers. The additional PR works on two-fronts: (1) a higher incidence rate for completed surveys and (2) positive impressions from residents knowing you are asking the opinion of the community.
- Use an expert – we cover this all of the time on the RMS Healthcare blog but you oftentimes don’t understand the true cost of the CHNA process until you run into problems. As Red Adair once stated, “if you think it is expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.” Using a CHNA vendor like RMS will ensure the process is organized, runs smoothly, and according to plan. Having a CHNA consultant siphon through and report on the data for you will also help your team prioritize goals and identify strategies to improve. Just understand which portions of the CHNA you want to keep internal and which portions of the CHNA you want to outsource. Consultant services can range from primary data collection and analysis, review of existing secondary data, report writing, strategic planning and implementation workplans, and facilitation of interviews.
Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located outside of Syracuse, NY that has helped a number of organizations and agencies conduct CHNAs all over the country. If you are interested in receiving a proposal and cost estimate from RMS or if you just want to chat about options for your CHNA, contact our Business Development Director Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.
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