Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Hospitals Prepare to Prove Community Benefit Worth

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Hospitals Prepare to Prove Community Benefit Worth

Article excerpt

In less than two years, not-for-profit hospitals must start proving the efficacy of what they're doing for the community outside their walls in addition to the care they provide inside.

That part of health care reform is taking effect in 2013; hospitals that don't comply can be fined $50,000 per facility. Hospital leadership is gearing up for extra paperwork and discernment about their outreach and its effectiveness.

The concept of community benefit - such as hospitals sponsoring health screenings and support groups - isn't new. But a new graduate- level certification program is helping hospital leaders better understand what will be considered community benefit under the new law.

Steve Petty, corporate director of community health improvement for Integris Health, recently earned a graduate certificate in community benefit from the St. Louis University of Public Health. He is one of the first five in the country to receive the certification.

"We can't keep health care inside the walls; we have to be out in the community doing it," Petty said. "This certification helps prepare me and hopefully Integris for what's coming down the road with the IRS regulations."

By 2013, all not-for-profit hospitals have to perform a community needs assessment to find out what issues are specific to their area. Integris, which has hospitals in 14 Oklahoma counties, must perform 14 assessments, Petty said.

However, it's not just gathering data about a county; it's working with public health officials and doing focus groups. Each facility must then come up with a strategic plan addressing problems, state what it will do to fix them, then show measurable outcomes.

Hospitals may have a number of outreach programs already in place, but now they will be required to show that they're working.

"Not-for-profit hospitals will be held more accountable for why they are tax-exempt," Petty said. "We have to prove we're making a difference to keep that tax-exempt status. We're already doing a lot in the community, and I'm very proud of that, but are we doing something that will affect those health indicators? …

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