Population Health is a Shared Responsibility
One path toward better population health is for community and rural hospitals to create partnerships with local businesses and civic and government leaders, all of whom stand to enjoy the economic and social benefits of living in a healthier community.
Healthcare reform and the anticipated shift away from the traditional fee-for-service payment model toward a model that rewards value-based preventive care means that hospitals will have to play a greater role in managing the health of the populations they serve—even beyond hospital grounds.
And an effective way for hospitals to accomplish that goal would be to create partnerships with their local business, civic, and government leaders, all of whom stand to enjoy the economic and social benefits of living in a healthier community, says Stephen A. Martin, executive director for the Association for Community Health Improvement at the American Hospital Association.
"There is the common theme that the hospitals and the community stakeholders have to have and that is a willingness to come to the table to solve the health issues of their respective communities," Martin says. "If there is no openness from the various stakeholders, then we can't move the community toward wellness."
These partnerships are especially critical for smaller hospitals in rural areas because of the unique pressures and lack of money and other scarcer resources that they face to treat a patient mix that is generally older, less healthy, less affluent, and more prone to overweight. The good news, Martin says, is that many hospitals have been doing this sort of community outreach for years before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was even drafted.