Population health leaders are extending more and more care model interventions into the community to address patients’ unmet social needs. However, many are still unclear on how to allocate the limited resources across possible community investments in the best possible ways. There are three significant obstacles that hinder a strategic approach to investment in community-based interventions. Investments are unsystematic due to an overwhelming set of priorities to pursue. Projects are not implemented with a data-informed approach. Lastly, the projects have a lack of sustainable funding.
You can use the four following strategies to take a more strategic approach to community investments that advance population health goals.
- Back key community health needs and strengths with quantitative and qualitative data input – Community health investments should be implemented with the same rigour as clinical investments: well-backed by data and continuously assessed for efficacy. This means building a comprehensive community-based health needs assessment. The approach can source information from government public records, a dedicated advisory board, an open-access data set and patients and community members. The process will narrow down the number of core measures to be considered.
- Prioritize community health needs with a standardized, evidenced-based framework – Organizations generally identify too many community health priorities in the data-gathering step to feasibly address. Progressive organizations, on the other hand, prioritize investments keeping in mind the availability of resources to address needs and the size of the improvement opportunity. They create a systematic ranking system to narrow down where to focus their efforts. Criteria include alignment with broader organizational goals to support the business case for investment, how to integrate psychosocial risk factors into ongoing care, the feasibility of short- and long-term success to ensure a return on investment; and ability to offset investment requirements.
- Solidify high-quality community partnerships with compacts – Community partnerships are vital to address community health needs at scale and gain access to disengaged populations But this is only possible if all concerned parties carry out their respective responsibilities. Partnership success also depends on common goals and commitment to resources. When building community partnerships, always select partners with the best cultural and strategic fit and formalize expectations across stakeholders using a partnership compact.
- Focus on sustainable investment through performance evaluation – Those investing in community-based interventions assess process and outcome metrics to determine if the program will be a success. Short-term process measures need to demonstrate growing improvements to sustain the leadership of promising initiatives. Long-term outcomes measures need to indicate an ROI to meet the system criteria for funding at scale.