Hospitals Unite for Health Assessment 

Nov 18

November 18, 2012 11:00 pm • Vanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

Three major region health care systems are collaborating to assess the health needs of Northwest Indiana residents, as required by the Affordable Care Act and the IRS.

Community Healthcare System, Methodist Hospitals and Franciscan Alliance are sponsoring the information gathering, which is being conducted by Omaha, Neb.-based research firm Professional Research Consultants, or PRC. The firm will compile information via focus groups and random phone polls.

"The phone survey is very comprehensive, 150 or so questions," said Keith Schneider, senior community health project manager with PRC.

Surveyors ask for the person's height, weight, level of exercise, eating patterns and dental visits, among other queries, Schneider said.

Each health care system will receive its own report. The IRS and Affordable Care Act require each, by the end of fiscal year 2013, to create an implementation strategy for improvement, Schneider said.

Despite strong competition among the health care companies, collaborating on this effort made sense logistically and financially, officials said.

"Why duplicate efforts and resources and money to do the same thing?" said Mary Ann Shacklett, CFO of Community Healthcare System.

The alternative is to have three analyses of the same community, said Gene Diamond, CEO of Franciscan Alliance’s Northern Indiana Region.

Letters went out to stakeholders, such as health professionals, business leaders and social service providers, asking for their participation in focus groups.

"I think utilizing the data that we're going to get out of this process is going to be vital," said Matt Doyle, CFO of Methodist Hospitals. "Each system will get all of the same data, then work on action plans and initiatives based off that data."

The hospitals have collaborated on inquiries in the past, most recently in 2005.

Methodist Hospitals used data from that report to open a diabetes center and develop a closer relationship with dialysis services, Doyle said.

The data turned the focus at Franciscan -- then St. Margaret Mercy hospital -- in Hammond, toward reducing neonatal and infant mortality. There were clinics, training and promotion of prenatal care, Diamond said.

Facilities within Community Healthcare System are active in community outreach. St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago has an active diabetes program that partners with churches to educate people about the disease. St. Mary Hospital in Hobart has a community garden, Shacklett said.

The assessment includes Lake County along with portions of Porter, Newton, Jasper and Cook counties, Schneider said.

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