One of the nation's broadest voluntary efforts to improve regional healthcare services is moving forward in Bucks County, Pa.
A report to be released this week will identify nine areas for health status improvements (See chart). The report is the first phase of an effort by a coalition of seven Bucks County hospitals, the county medical society and the county health department.
Coalition members will work with other community organizations, such as businesses and churches, to address those needs. No estimate of the resulting costs or savings was given.
Areas identified for improvement evolved from an analysis of statistical data, a review of existing healthcare services, interviews with community leaders and feedback from focus groups. Begun in June 1993, the investigative project cost $75,000. The medical society contributed $2,000; the seven hospitals are contributing the balance.
The seven hospitals are Delaware Valley Medical Center and Saint Mary Medical Center in Langhorne; Quakertown (Pa.) Community Hospital; Grand View Hospital in Sellersville; Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol; Medical College Hospitals, Bucks County Campus, in Warminster; and Doylestown (Pa.) Hospital.
Coalition members will convene this week to write action plans. Each of the hospitals' chief executive officers, the medical society president and the health department director heads one of the nine task forces assigned to the target areas.
What makes the community needs assessment unique is the direct involvement of hospital CEOs and the voluntary nature of the initiative, said David Smith, a professor at Temple University's business and management school and partner in Smith, Apt Associates, a Philadelphia-based consulting firm that advised the participants.
Unlike some health assessments undertaken to justify hospitals' tax-exempt status, "nobody had a gun to their heads to do it," Mr. Smith explained.
Gerald F. Gribbon, vice president of marketing and development for Delaware Valley Medical Center, said he pursued the notion of a collaborative initiative after attending a one-day needs assessment seminar with representatives of three other area hospitals.
"We were able to recognize that doing seven different community health assessments in this county would make no sense at all," he said.
The coalition will seek ways to improve health access and stretch limited resources, Mr. Gribbon said. For example, a countywide health education and screening program could be created to eliminate duplicative efforts and better coordinate existing resources, he said.
Although no timetable or budget has been established, the coalition intends to meet publicly a year from now to review its progress.