Every three years, hospitals examine the needs of the communities they operate in.
Data gathered during the process — known as “Community Health Needs Assessment” — is used to determine the types of health programs needed in individual communities.
The assessments are comprehensive and include measurements on health care provided to uninsured patients, Medicaid underpayments, professional education costs, medical research and community health improvement spending.
The Florida Hospital Association’s 200-plus member institutions recently completed their assessments, and FHA produced a report compiling their findings.
According to the 2019 Community Benefit Report, FHA members contributed $4.1 billion in benefits to their communities in 2018, which equates to about an eighth of those hospitals’ operating expenses.
The bulk of those funds, $3.2 billion, went toward free care for low-income and uninsured patients. The report detailed another $401 million directed toward training physicians, nurses and other health professionals.
The bulk of the report, however, highlighted community health improvement, which includes public health initiatives focused on certain socioeconomic and cultural groups or programs aimed at advancing certain federal or state priorities. The segment also includes housing for vulnerable patients and low-income seniors upon discharge.
“Every day Florida’s hospitals step outside of their four walls to provide care to our communities well beyond typical services and emergency care. Our hospitals are reaching out into the communities they serve to increase access to health care and encourage preventative care,” said Florida Hospital Association Interim President Crystal Stickle.
“From disaster response to mobile health clinics, food pantries and managing the front lines of the opioid crisis, hospitals are rising to the challenge and meeting the critical needs of Floridians. Hospital teams across Florida are dedicated to filling these gaps for their patients and the communities they serve — it is their mission.”
Getting a spread in the FHA report was Ascension St. Vincent’s “Medical Mission at Home” program.
The annual event in Jacksonville sees navigators guide patients to various stations where they can learn about health programs that fit their needs.
In addition, event attendees who need follow-up care are scheduled for appointments with providers that have agreed to take on new patients whether or not they have insurance.
Nemours Children’s Hospital also got a share of the spotlight for its “Back-to-School Physicals” program targeting underinsured and uninsured children. In addition to a checkup, students leave with the doctor note they need before showing up at school.
The program, a partnership with charitable clinic Shepherd’s Hope, has grown to a weeklong event spanning five locations in Central Florida.
“In all my years of practicing throughout the U.S., I’ve not encountered another program like this. But it’s so needed. Without it, hundreds of children may not be able to attend school,” said Dr. Adalberto Torres, director of pediatric programs at Nemours.
FHA also called attention to Tampa General Hospital’s implementation of the national “Stop the Bleed” campaign.
The program provides education on how to stop bleeding from gunshot wounds or other severe trauma so patients have a better chance of survival once EMTs arrive.
Since the program launched at TGH in November 2017, the hospital has held 77 classes, certified 1,231 people, and trained more than 2,000.
Overall, FHA’s member hospitals put $493 million into community health improvement programs.