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4 ways to optimize your community health investment strategy

October 25, 2018

    Population health leaders are increasingly extending care model interventions into the community to address patients' unmet social needs to stave off an acute care episode. But many are unclear on how to best allocate limited resources across possible community investments. There are three major barriers that hinder a strategic approach to investment in community-based interventions:

    1. Investments are haphazard due to an overwhelming set of priorities to pursue;
    2. Projects are implemented ad hoc, rather than with a data-informed approach; and
    3. Projects lack sustainable funding.

    Use the four following strategies to take a more strategic approach to community investments that advance population health goals.

    1. Surface key community health needs and strengths with quantitative and qualitative data input

    Community health investments should be implemented with the same rigor as clinical investments: well-supported by data and continuously assessed for efficacy. For Adventist HealthCare in Montgomery County, Maryland, this meant building a comprehensive community health needs assessment. Their four-pronged approach sourced information from an open-access data set, government public records, a dedicated advisory board, and patients and community members. This process narrowed the number of tracked metrics to 37 core measures.

    2. Prioritize community health needs with standardized, evidenced-based framework

    Organizations typically identify too many community health priorities in their data-gathering process to feasibly address. Progressive organizations prioritize investments based on the size of the improvement opportunity and availability of resources to address needs. They create a standardized ranking system to determine where to focus their efforts. Criteria include:

    • Alignment with broader organizational goals to support the business case for investment;
    • Feasibility of short- and long-term success to ensure a return on investment; and
    • Ability to offset investment requirements (e.g., partnering with community-based organization, existing internal resources).

    3. Solidify high-quality community partnerships with compacts

    Community partnerships are essential to addressing community health needs at scale and gaining access to disengaged populations, but only if all parties carry out their respective responsibilities. Partnership success depends on shared goals and resource commitments. When building community partnerships:

    • Select partners with the best cultural and strategic fit; and
    • Formalize expectations across stakeholders using a partnership compact.

    4. Drive the case for sustainable investment through performance evaluation

    Those successfully investing in community-based interventions assess process and outcome metrics to determine program success. Short-term process measures should demonstrate rapid improvements to sustain leadership buy-in of promising initiatives. Long-term outcomes measures should indicate a return on investment to meet the system criteria for funding at scale.

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