In this short video, Brian Ackerman will discuss the key considerations for a community needs assessment.
My name’s Brian Ackerman. I want to talk to you a little bit about physician needs assessments and some of the key considerations you might want to factor in to your needs assessment process. Given all the regulatory scrutiny that we see with hospitals today, and we read news reports about the tax-exempt status of hospitals being challenged for their perceived failure to meet or demonstrate community need, it is no surprise that some of the questions that we get from our clients, as it relates to their physician needs assessment, relate to;
Now, what we want to do as we kind of walk through the next few minutes is to really talk through those key considerations. Stepping back though, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that a physician needs assessment, the primary purpose is to ensure compliance for your organization. So if you’re looking to offer taxes and recruitment funds to an independent practice that is looking to add to their complement of providers, you’re able to do that by demonstrating community need. Now, separate from that and secondary to that, your community needs assessment will be one input into your broader physician recruitment strategy, helping you understand as an organization, who you might look to recruit in the future based off, not only the needs in the community, but the needs of your organization as well.
So back to those key considerations. First and foremost, we want to start with estimating the demand for providers in your community. Therefore, ensuring the stark-defined community is up-to-date is critical. Depending on how fluid your market and community dynamics are, this is something that could change fairly frequently. As a result, you want to look at the zip code composition of your stark-defined community on a regular basis and make sure it’s up-to-date.
Also, when estimating demand, we want to avoid using physician-to-population ratios, particularly in the time that we operate now. Many of those can be historically based on a period of time that is no longer applicable to how care is being delivered today in your community. Consequently you want to look for a more tailored approach to your market in the way that your population consumes physician services.
After we look at demand, we want to look at supply. The important piece here and where we really ask our clients to spend a lot of time is on understanding the full-time equivalency of the providers in your community. Hence the number of bodies are important to understand in terms of the physicians and non-physician providers. A few things to consider are; How much time do they spend practicing in your community? Are they a full FTE? Are they part-time between your community and other? Ensureing that they are really drilling down on that and then understanding those non-physician providers is also critical.
We also want to understand that the IRS does give us multiple ways to demonstrate need and so most traditional methods we look at the quantitative approach, but also, we can look at demonstrating need through more qualitative methods. Whether that’s through phone surveys of area practices, to understand wait times, whether we’re talking with existing providers in the community to understand what needs they see as long as we are documenting that in a way that we can then defend, that is another way to demonstrate need appropriately and fully.
Also, want to ensure that when we develop a needs assessment and have it near completion, we are getting sign off from our legal counsel as well as our board. Again, this is something that is critical to do even as you’re updating your needs assessment every other year, or however frequently you might be updating the needs assessment.
Which brings us to the last consideration. We often get asked, how often should we be updating the needs assessment? We would say a full comprehensive needs assessment should be done every two to three years. It is market dependent. You know your market and how frequently things change. Nonetheless, in between that time, if there are certain changes to a specialty that you want a deeper dive between those updates, you can certainly do that. Again, make sure that you are documenting what you are doing, so that it is defendable from a need perspective. So pulling all of that together, those are the key considerations you will want to factor in to, not only ensure compliance, but give you a relevant document that is going to assist you with your daily recruitment activities.