Hospital, Meet Your Community. Community, Meet Your Hospital.

Hospital, Meet Your Community. Community, Meet Your Hospital.

How to See the Greatest Impact from Your CHNA

By Forrest Rich

A Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) will allow you to assess the health and needs of your community and create a coalition to address those needs. Required by law for non-profits, it’s a practice that can benefit a hospital or health system of any size or tax standing. A CHNA can dramatically further publicity and marketing initiatives, while simultaneously improving community health. 

Consider these benefits; by executing a CHNA you will:

  • Understand the demographics of your population
  • Examine the psychographics and spending habits of your community 
  • Learn the values and viewpoints of the residents in your service area and what unmet health needs they have
  • Collaborate with community stakeholders to prioritize solutions
  • Integrate a Market Research Analysis and align your CHNA with your strategic plan
  • Meet IRS requirements (for not-for-profit hospitals)

According to the CDC website: “The ultimate goal of a community health assessment is to develop strategies to address the community's health needs and identified issues. A variety of tools and processes may be used to conduct a community health assessment; the essential ingredients are community engagement and collaborative participation.”


In this post, we’ll talk more about why you should complete a CHNA, regardless of whether or not it’s required by law. We’ll then share our five-stage CHNA process and a list of steps for how to implement your plan once it’s ready.

Compelling Reasons to Commit to a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA)

Not-for-profit hospitals, in order to maintain their tax-exempt, or "charitable," status, under section 501(c)(3) of the Federal Internal Revenue Code, have long been required to provide a listing of benefits they provide to the community that they serve. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) upped the game a bit, requiring tax-exempt hospitals to create a community health needs assessment every three years.

Although this is the catalyst for most CHNAs, for-profit hospitals are also performing CHNAs as a way to support hospital growth and overall community health. The hospital benefits from getting to know more about their community, and this intelligence can inform its strategic plan. At the same time, the community benefits from having their hospital proactively and collaboratively addressing health issues.

Many hospitals that have undergone a CHNA will come to understand their community health in a whole new light. Oftentimes, hospitals are analyzing data they’ve never been exposed to previously because it was the “job” of the Health Department to handle these community health issues in the past. Hospitals then have the opportunity to get more involved in helping to address the health problems that may eventually lead patients to their Emergency and Outpatient care centers.

How to Accomplish an Effective Community Health Needs Assessment

As an integral part of their community, hospitals have a tremendous opportunity to be involved in the improvement of the health of that community. And a well-executed CHNA goes far beyond compliance and adds value to any community and hospital system. 

Stratasan takes hospitals through a five-stage CHNA process:

  1. Integrate a Strategic Market Analysis: Align Community Health with Your Strategic Plan
  2. Assess the Needs of Your Community: Secondary Data Gathering
  3. Validate Findings: Primary Research including focus groups, individual interviews, phone surveys, etc.
  4. Community Health Summit: Rally Your Community
  5. Implementation Plan


Stratasan’s CHNA process begins with a Strategic Market Analysis (SMA) to provide an overall measure of a hospital or health system’s performance, as well as a look into the competition’s health and growth potential. This is the first step of our process as we feel it helps to realistically align the community’s health with your strategic plan. During the SMA process, we’ll map hospital inpatient, outpatient, and emergency patient data to the neighborhood level. We’ll also conduct a market share analysis and create comparative and competitor hospital profiles.

In step two and three, the hospital and community members are looking at healthcare utilization and demand in their chosen service area. They are also looking at commuter patterns, day and night-time populations, health care purchasing behavior of their community (psychographics), chronic disease rates in their community, as well as the usual demographic information. This information opens their eyes to a whole new way of looking at health and their community. After digging through this data, hospitals are more in touch with and know how to reach their community.

The Community Health Summit, step four, is the most exciting part of the process. Imagine: eighty-five community members in one room hearing about the health of their community, then listing and prioritizing health issues and creating a plan to address those issues. It’s a truly exhilarating process! The local hospital is there, as an equal member of the community, working with the Health Department, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, a bank, a manufacturer, a community volunteer, a priest, and an outpatient psych counselor to create a plan to address the major health concerns of the community. When the community creates the plan the community owns the plan.

Step five is key⁠—creating and executing the implementation plan. We’ll discuss how to do that in the next section.

Ideas for Successful CHNA Implementation

Once your CHNA is complete, it’s important to create an implementation plan that includes tracking and success metrics. This is often referred to as a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). 

Your CHIP should:

  • Include specific actions the community and hospital will take together to address the health needs identified 
  • Provide a way to measure impact annually and at the end of three years
  • Identify the resources you will need to implement your plan
  • Identify any collaborations that should happen for you to implement your plan

Below are eight steps you can take to ensure your hospital’s CHIP achieves its objectives. Completion of this list will keep your team motivated and accountable to achieve the goals you have set.

  • Step 1: Create a tracker for monitoring and evaluation of benchmarks
  • Step 2: Develop a strategy for community collaboration
  • Step 3: Identify an internal implementation team
  • Step 4: Confirm compliance
  • Step 5: Write down lessons learned from your previous CHIP
  • Step 6: Update your website
  • Step 7: Be prepared to track your impact
  • Step 8: Publicize and promote the current plan's impact

For more on each of these steps, and a handy checklist to help you stay on task, download our CHNA Implementation Checklist.

The Takeaway

As a team who has completed over 50 CHNAs, many for small and critical access hospitals, we can share with confidence that they are not the complicated, expensive undertaking some have articulated. From start to finish, the process takes around three months depending on the services selected. Stratasan has the expertise to guide your team through a more collaborative and objective planning experience. 

"Stratasan has truly been a partner through our CHNA process. They’ve done everything we could have imagined and even anticipated some things we could have not. Their service, expertise, and professionalism are unmatched.”
- Lisa G. Winters, Director of Marketing and Community Relations, Peterson Regional Medical Center

For more information about how we can help you create a CHNA and CHIP that can benefit your hospital in many ways for years to come schedule time to speak with a member of the Stratasan team today.

Article by Forrest Rich, Health Analyst for Stratasan

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CHNA Checklist to help improve your community

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