"So, in one instances there could be a situation in a small rural setting that the hospital is the center and the convener of a population health benefit strategy. In other settings such as a larger metropolitan urban setting it could be various stakeholders, the local public health department, United Way, Chamber of Commerce, varying parties all coming to the table to be the integral entity that moves these initiatives forward. The critical component is the hospital either playing the role of convener or coming to the table. It's not a one-size-fits all."
What exactly that role will be can also depend upon the hospital. A larger academic medical center, or an integrated healthcare system with more resources and a larger staff might be able to take on more of the responsibility for population health than can a smaller rural hospital.
Rural and community hospital leaders looking for some help on identifying population health issues and establishing programs to address those issues may consult a new guide from the ACHI and the AHA's Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence initiative.
"Each of these different structures and settings engage their communities in different ways," Martin says. "There is no cookie cutter way of approaching population health management because the dynamic here is the individual community, and each community is different."