Susan S. Maxsween, MHSA, VP Healthcare Operations & Consulting
and Molly Burke, MPH, Research Analyst –

What is a CHNA?

A Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) is a systematic approach that aims to improve the health and well-being of a community by providing organizations with insights on the health status of the community. The CHNA provides the opportunity to adopt implementation strategies that take into account the unique health needs of a community. Particular attention is given to assessing and addressing the health disparities in the community as well as the broad determinants of health (Figure 1).

The County Health Rankings Model1 provides robust insights and demonstrates how elements that affect health outcomes, such as health behaviors, social and economic factors, the physical environment, among others, influence the quality of life. As a healthcare consulting firm with experience in conducting and writing CHNAs, we understand the significance of this research, and how this federal reporting requirement can become a meaningful and insightful process for a community.

The CHNA Process

The CHNA is a mandatory report that charitable hospital organizations are required to conduct every three years per the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (informally known as Obamacare) established an official reporting process for nonprofit hospitals to perform this community assessment with the overarching goal of improving the healthcare services for the community in which they serve. Community transformation, which is essential to the CHNA process, is key to improving the health of the community.

The Take Action Model2 (Figure 2) visualizes what makes a healthy community and how the key essential element is people working together to improve the health of the community. The second key step involved in understanding this process includes developing the infrastructure to invest in the development of a comprehensive and meaningful CHNA, as well as:

  • Identifying and defining the community served
  • Collaboration between multiple sectors throughout each step of the CHNA process
  • Establishing diverse and proactive community engagement to ensure you are positioned to meet the needs of the community
  • Aligning the healthcare system with the community served
  • Translating the healthcare quality metrics into actionable improvements to better address the community needs through evidence-based interventions and practices

The County Health Rankings Model1 with the Take Action Model2 provide robust insights as well as the critical steps to building a healthy community. This foundation will position hospitals to prepare a CHNA that will fully align with the IRS3 requirements as follows:

  1. Community definition and profile
  2. Assess the health needs of that community
  3. Solicit and take into account input received from persons who represent the broad interests of that community
  4. Document the CHNA process in a written report that will be adopted by the hospital facility
  5. Make the CHNA report widely available to the public

RMS Healthcare understands that building a comprehensive plan requires engagement of key community stakeholders who represent the broader interests of the community. With our experience, we can guide hospitals to establish, strengthen, and maintain collaborative partnerships with key community organizations to identify and gain valuable insight from a broad range of community partners. Gaining targeted insights from community stakeholders will help facilitate identification of unmet needs as well as inequities among specific demographic groups within the defined community. Through our experienced CHNA consultation, we provide the heavy lifting through several important methodologies to gather information regarding your community and finalize your CHNA:

  • Quantitative research (typically conducted as a community survey)
  • Qualitative research (in-depth interviews with key community stakeholders, focus groups with community members)
  • Secondary data compilation, review, and analysis
  • Strategic planning and prioritization
  • Collaboratively writing the CHNA report
  • Preparing the Community Health Improvement Plan – CHIP

A Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) is a long-term, systemic effort to address the public health needs that were identified as an outcome of the research associated with the CHNA activities.

The CHIP is essential for developing priorities and defining actions to target efforts to improve the health of the community. Often, this process is collaborative in nature, involving community partners and public health officials. It is an essential plan that identifies the opportunities that will be influential in improving the health of the community.

Why Use RMS Healthcare Consulting Services?

The CHNA process is a research project at its core – it poses the question “what does my community need to be healthier?” and “how do I create a healthier community?” The CHNA identifies the community’s health needs through primary and secondary research, both quantitative and qualitative. Utilizing a research firm that is well-versed in these research methodologies can help make the CHNA process less daunting.

RMS Healthcare is a full-service, professional market research and healthcare consulting firm. With over 21 years of industry experience, we can help you conduct an impactful and actionable CHNA. We utilize our project management expertise to help you conduct a thorough CHNA through a structured approach. We have vast experience in collecting primary data from community members through multiple modalities as well as researching and compiling secondary data through various reputable sources. We are one of only two of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)-approved vendors in the state of New York to administer Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems (CAHPS) surveys. We also work with the National Center for Quality Assurance (NCQA) to help primary care practices throughout the country implement quality improvement efforts to become and maintain Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Recognition.

We have worked with a number of healthcare organizations and entities, both locally and nationally, to coach and guide them through their Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs) and Community Health Improvement Plans (CHIPs). If you are interested in learning more about our capabilities and CHNA consulting services, contact our Vice President of Healthcare Operations and Consulting, Susan Maxsween, at or by calling 1-866-567-5422.


  1. Explore Health Rankings: County Health Rankings Model (2023) County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Available at: (Accessed: 5 March 2024).
  2. Take Action Cycle (2023) County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Available at: Take Action Cycle | County Health Rankings & Roadmaps (Accessed: 5 March 2024).
  3. Community Health Needs Assessment for Charitable Hospital Organizations – section 501(r)(3) (2022) Internal Revenue Service. Available at: (Accessed: 5 March 2024).

About RMS Healthcare

Since 2010, RMS Healthcare, a division of Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc., has been leading healthcare organizations to embrace operational changes to improve the quality driven approach in providing patient-centered care delivery. We understand that every health system presents unique scenarios, challenges and ultimately, a passion to succeed. We work closely with our clients to cultivate cohesive and long-term partnerships. We have extensive experience in aligning practices to develop, implement and adopt processes to ensure sustainable success that embodies the tenants of the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model of care delivery, experience in leading Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) through the certification process. RMS Healthcare also has extensive experience in providing targeted healthcare consultative services based upon unique client needs.

About RMS

Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) is a full-service market research firm in Central New York. Formed in 2002, RMS helps organizations that are looking to know more about their customers and/or potential customers. They conduct surveys, focus groups, mystery shopping, studies and analysis. Each project is customized and gets personal attention by the best in the business. RMS has a reputation for getting results and offers an independent means to conduct telephone, on-line and mail surveying, In-depth interviews, intercept interviews, and participant recruitment as well as focus group hosting through QualiSight, its onsite call center and focus group facility. Taking advantage of the region’s reputation for being a great market study barometer, RMS recruits and moderates for focus groups, community forums and town meetings.