Community health needs assessments have been required of tax-exempt hospitals since the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. These assessments, which take place every three years, create an important opportunity to improve the health of communities by providing Tower Health and its community partners with a way to identify area health priorities and identify A collective path forward.
Tower Health’s CHNA regional data were collected and reported for service areas at Reading Hospital, Phoenixville Hospital, Pottstown Hospital, Chestnut Hill Hospital, and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.
The project engaged more than 4,000 community members and leaders in each hospital’s service area through stakeholder interviews, leadership and health equity focus groups, key informants, and community surveys. An inventory of health service providers that highlights organizations and agencies serving the community has also been created.
Based on this work, the priority areas identified by CHNA for the next three years are:
• Get fair care
• behavioral health
• Health education and prevention
• Health equity
With a focus on health equity, Access to Care (a priority from previous CHNAs) has shifted to Access to Equitable Care. Equitable care means providing care that does not vary in quality according to characteristics of the patient or patient group such as age, gender, geographic location, cultural background, race, religion, and socioeconomic status.
We have almost completed an implementation strategy with the help and support of our community partners in each hospital. Implementation is an essential component of the CHNA process and provides specific objectives, action items, metrics and responsibilities for community partners that will serve as the health system’s roadmap for the next three years. Upon completion in November, this information will be publicly available on our website.
Our community partners are vital to the successful development and implementation of programs, education, and services for our patients, their families, and our community as a whole. We know that when community organizations bring their strengths and ideas to the table, we are all stronger – collectively and individually – and can have a greater impact on members of our communities.
Tower Health completed its last CHNA test in 2019, and has since implemented several successful programs in both hospital communities:
At Chestnut Hill Hospital, a dedicated team of physicians and medical residents volunteer to provide free screenings and educational programs for children at summer camps, seniors at local centers, and high-risk individuals who need support and care.
At Phoenixville Hospital, Our Community Care – “In This Together” has become a community collaboration that provides knowledge, skills, resources, and expertise to meet the health needs of the diverse community the hospital serves. The COVID-19 Mobile Vaccine Collaborative has delivered thousands of vaccines to seniors, at-risk populations, schools and other groups, improving access to care and promoting health equity. In addition to the mobile vaccine clinic, Phoenixville Hospital has also partnered with the Chester County Department of Health to provide COVID-19 vaccines at the local community vaccination clinic.
In January 2021, Pottstown Hospital launched the Street Medicine Program to increase access to healthcare by providing primary and urgent care to homeless individuals in the Pottstown area. To date, more than 150 patients have been evaluated by the Clinical Teams of Tower Health Medical Group and have volunteered their time (more than 280 hours to date) and experience into the program.
The Community Outreach Program (CCP) at Reading Hospital screens patients for their potential needs such as access to food, quality housing, and reliable transportation. A community health worker is assigned to eligible patients to reduce barriers to care, make referrals to community organizations, and provide clinical support.
Between September 2018 and April 2022, the Center for Health Care Problems leveraged the Responsible Health Communities model through a $4.5 million Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services collaborative agreement, completed 142,208 examinations for 53,756 patients and opened 6,378 navigation cases with a health worker the society.
Tower Health’s latest CHNA is part of our ongoing commitment to focus on the public health of the communities we serve. We are proud to work with our community partners on this important work.
Disha Dixon is Tower Health’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Wellness.