When 193-bed Advocate Trinity Hospital began five years ago to assess the health needs of residents in its service area on Chicago's South Side, it found the rate of stroke was among the highest in Illinois. Deaths from heart disease and cancer made up half of the more than 2,700 deaths that occurred in the hospital's service area in 2011.
“We mapped out a plan of what those (health) gaps were,” said Michelle Gaskill, president of Trinity. “Then we started identifying investments we were going to make over a period of time to start filling those gaps.”
Over the next few years, Trinity, part of 11-hospital Advocate Health Care, developed a primary stroke center, which won the hospital a Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission in 2010. Without that designation, “Patients who were having an active stroke would have had to leave this ZIP code to travel to the closest primary stroke center,” Gaskill said.
Other initiatives included adding a second heart catheterization lab and new equipment for the radiology department. Gaskill said those investments grew out of the findings of the hospital's community needs assessment. The total cost for this new infrastructure was nearly $80 million over five years, she said.
All not-for-profit hospitals are now required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to conduct and publish similar community needs assessments once every three years. They also must draft a strategic plan on how they will address identified needs. Under the law, hospitals face a $50,000 penalty per year and the potential loss of their federal tax-exempt status for failing to complete the assessments. The first assessment was due no later than the first tax year after March 23, 2012, to be submitted as a part of the IRS Form 990 report.