The following blog post was written by Mark Dengler, President of RMS.

Community Health Assessment Guidelines

It’s hard to believe that it’s that time again — regulators are looking for New York counties and healthcare systems to update and refresh their local community healthcare priorities by conducting a Community Health Assessment (CHA). Additionally, many non-profit hospitals are also coming up on their Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) renewal obligations as part of the IRS requirements. As a critical part of these exercises, it is important to engage community residents and key stakeholder groups to obtain primary data feedback.


CHA CHNA Community Health Needs Assessment

CHAs & CHNAs gather primary and secondary data from key stakeholder segments including providers, business leaders, patients and the community-at-large. These assessments involve the collaboration between counties, local health departments, hospitals, healthcare organizations, and key community stakeholders using community online surveys, in-depth interviews, telephone surveys, focus groups, or community forum moderation. As a means to generate Community Health Improvement Plans (CHIPs), these research modalities focus on reaching hard to engage population segments, which is attainable by working with an experienced healthcare research and consulting firm. Analyzing available county, state and nationwide data to develop resource assessments and gap analyses based upon community issues and population need input, inclusive of vulnerable populations, is a crucial step in supporting local healthcare planning.


Community Health Assessment Steps

In the past, many organizations conducted telephone surveys, held focus groups and conducted community forums to help engage their communities and obtain input regarding community needs. These methods continue to be excellent means to gain insights; However, with more and more cost pressures on counties and healthcare systems, new and less expensive research modalities are emerging as a means to gain input from community stakeholders and residents. One of the most prevalent new modalities to employ is conducting an online survey. Using an online survey is a great way to obtain feedback from community residents. With over 92% of Americans and 98% of NY residents having reliable Internet access, providing an online survey helps ensure that the entire community has the opportunity to provide input. It is important to note that online surveys should be conducted by experienced survey vendors. It helps ensure a high response rate, properly worded and structured survey questions, comprehensive survey content, and analytical expertise. Leave the Do-It-Yourself online survey platform approach aside and work directly with an experienced market research firm. There is an art to writing an effective survey document and industry firms can help with the online survey promotion through traditional and social media venues.


Community Health Needs Assessment tools

There is no substitute for a robust in-depth interview (IDI) with a key stakeholder when it comes to probing about healthcare needs and gaps. These interviews typically last 20 to 25 minutes and can be conducted over the phone or in person. This qualitative, primary research modality involves creating a detailed IDI script that is used among all key stakeholders. The script ensures that questions are asked succinctly, in a successive order and with consistency. It is also recommended that the interactive IDI questioning be recorded so that verbatim responses can be subsequently reviewed. Interviewees should be made aware of this recording and acknowledgement of the importance of their responses is highly recommended. Aggregate review of each IDI case study allows for themed need and gap areas to be identified across all the stakeholders consulted with. Through conducting 12 to 15 IDIs, a good representation of the current healthcare delivery system’s priorities and current market state can be obtained. This information is critical since it indicates perceptions in real-time. As so often is the case in referencing secondary reported healthcare outcomes data, the information is not always current and can reflect past experiences that are two or three years old.


Purpose of Community Health Assessment

As counties and healthcare systems begin the work of refreshing their community health assessments, it is vitally important to engage the community in this work. There are multiple primary research modalities that can be used. Consultation with an experienced market research firm that is knowledgeable about the healthcare industry is recommended. Collaboration between all the stakeholders, healthcare delivery systems and experienced research analysts will help guarantee a great outcome that engages all.

RMS Healthcare, a division of Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS), provides operational support, consulting and research services, tailoring their expertise to optimize Community Health Needs Assessments and Community Health Assessments across the country. We are a leading CHA/CHNA vendor and healthcare consulting firm with proven experience and success in healthcare research. If you are interested in learning more about our capabilities and CHA/CHNA services, contact our Vice President for Healthcare Consulting & Analytics, Susan Maxsween, at or by calling 866.567.5422.