What Can You Get Out of a Needs Assessment?
Every health center we work with is unique, but we go into each needs assessment project with the same set of goals. Following the completion of the needs assessment, each health center should:
- Have an established baseline of current data that will assist with developing patient projections, marketing goals, and long- and short-term strategic planning.
- Have a document that can be repurposed for use in promotional materials and grant applications.
- Be in compliance with #1 of HRSA’s 19 Program Requirements.
Needs assessments provide real insight into both the ongoing and emerging needs of the service area population, while also revealing demographic shifts and other noteworthy changes to the service area. If your organization has not completed a needs assessment in some time, you are missing out on the U.S. Census Bureau’s periodically updated and detailed American Community Survey data for your service area and in having an excellent planning tool that will assure being in compliance with HRSA requirements.
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Key Components of a Needs Assessment
A Needs Assessment is only as good as the data undergirding it. We collect demographic and economic data from the most accurate and up-to-date sources available. These include the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (available down to block groups), Department of Labor, health departments, school districts, and other trustworthy and appropriate sources. In order to get a grasp on the unique opportunities and challenges facing each health center, we also make use of an overlay of information obtained from UDS data, board questionnaires, and patient surveys.
Note for Grant Writers: The above range of data readily responds to the Needs sections of Service Area Competition and New Access Point grant applications. The actual completion of the Needs section can be accomplished as part of the Needs Assessment, if requested.
If your organization has recently completed a patient survey or is getting ready to do one, we can include the results/outcome of the survey as part of the needs assessment document. Cogent survey findings can be made part of the assessment analysis and presented in easy-to-understand charts.
If you need assistance with completing a patient survey, we can work with you to develop one, even using the popular Survey Monkey® format. This is an opportunity to resolve two tasks your health center needs to do within the scope of one project.
The Program Requirements pertaining to the needs assessment includes a requirement for a service area map. While most health centers rely on difficult-to-decipher maps created using the UDS Mapper, we use the latest GIS mapping tools to produce elegant maps that are easy-to-read and generally contribute to a better understanding of the service area environment.
We also provide the option to optimize the needs assessments with patient origin maps. These maps, which use available patient data to identify the location of patients by ZIP code, provide useful data while ensuring patient privacy. Patient origin maps offer a visual presentation that is critical for establishing patient projection goals and developing marketing plans. In addition, these maps are absolutely essential for health centers considering expansions and satellite sites and looking to resolve issues related to service area overlap.
Note for Grant Writers: Appropriate for inclusion as a grant attachment, the service area map can be annotated to reinforce or emphasize information not readily provided by the UDS Mapper.
Analysis and Recommendations
Once all relevant data has been collected, we conduct an analysis. This analysis takes into account a number of factors, including patient/visit trends, operational trends, the activities of other area providers, and the status of area HPSAs and MUAs/MUPs. Based on this analysis and our more than 30 years of experience working with health centers, we can provide recommendations that the Board and executive staff can consider when conducting short- and long-term strategic planning.
Outcomes of the Needs Assessment
Needs assessments are more than just another hoop that has to be jumped through for HRSA or another document that needs to be on the shelf in case someone comes asking about it.
As critical planning tools, needs assessments help health centers establish reasonable patient projections, build patient utilization, and increase market share. In the event financing is required for capital or operational expansion, the completed needs assessment serves to respond to business planning requirements. Furthermore, with a well-crafted needs assessment, board members and executive staff have the information they need to develop informed and attainable operational goals and to orient new board members and key management staff.
Although HRSA does not directly state how often grantees should update their Needs Assessments, an annual update is recommended. If you haven’t updated your organization’s needs assessment in some time, we can help.
For a free consultation, call or email us today –
800.892.2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org