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Monday, November 05, 2012 - Covenant Health Conducts Assessments of Local Health Needs

Covenant Health Conducts Assessments of Local Health NeedsCovenant Health’s mission is to improve the quality of life for East Tennesseans through better health. One important way to carry out that mission is to collaborate with our communities to determine local health needs, and to work with local organizations to develop and implement plans for addressing those needs.

In addition, recent healthcare legislation requires that Covenant Health and other notfor-profit hospitals and health systems conduct community needs assessments every three years. While the process is not explicitly scripted, health systems are encouraged to collaborate with key community stakeholders such as health departments, universities, and organizations such as United Way and local Chambers of Commerce.

At the same time that Covenant Health began looking at ways to gather community health information effectively, local health departments and other organizations in our region were beginning to do needs assessments in counties throughout East Tennessee. The Knox County Health Department initiated an extensive needs assessment process in 2010, and more recently PlanET had begun a five-county process to look at the needs of Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon and Union counties.

“It turns out to be a great opportunity for Covenant Health to partner with health departments in the counties where our hospitals are located, and to collaborate on the information-gathering and analysis process,” said Gary Young, director of Covenant’s Center for Community Health. He explained that representatives of Covenant Health hospitals already have been “at the table” and have been participating with local health assessment efforts.

Students are interviewing East Tennessee residents to gather information for county-wide health needs assessments.
Students are interviewing East Tennessee residents to gather
information for county-wide health needs assessments.
In Anderson, Hamblen, Sevier, Loudon, and Roane counties, where Covenant Health hospitals are located, Covenant is beginning to identify and work with assessment partners. The health departments have been collecting and reviewing demographic, socio-economic, and health  statistics for their specific counties. Covenant Health will enhance the data collection efforts with qualitative research, using a combination of online and hardcopy surveys and “key informant” interviews of community leaders. For example, in Knox County Covenant Health is working with the Together Health Knox Initiative. This collaborative approach will result in a more complete understanding of health status and opportunities, Young said.

“The combination of quantitative and qualitative information will enhance the overall effort,” he explained. “The goal is to gather health statistics and to overlay those numbers with citizen input. We are including interviews with community leaders who, because of their tenure,  knowledge, unique experiences or job responsibilities, can give us particular insight into local health issues.” Examples might be safety personnel, healthcare providers at local free or low-cost clinics, and representatives from faith-based communities, he explained.

“Once data are collected, compiled and analyzed, we will convene a stakeholder group in each county to see what issues emerge.”

Hospitals will develop action plans based on the findings, and on the hospitals’ ability to address some of the needs that are identified through the data collection process. Covenant Health hospitals anticipate having their plans developed by early spring 2013, and submitting the plans in compliance with healthcare law.
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