As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the American Association of Healthcare Consultants decided to give something back to the industry it serves. As a result, nine not-for-profit community hospitals and healthcare organizations across the country received free consulting services from AAHC member firms this year.
"We were interested in helping those deserving organizations that really didn't have the resources to go out and buy independent advice and counsel from a consultant," says Vaughan Smith, president of the Fairfax, Va.-based group.
For each project, consultants and healthcare staff focused on improving community relations through marketing and by expanding services or creating programs. The projects included performing an overall assessment of a hospital's community health program, planning a pediatric urgent-care center and improving a clinic's operations.
Twenty-two hospitals submitted project proposals in January, and 35 of the 65 AAHC member organizations agreed to volunteer about 3,000 hours of work. By April, nine projects were chosen and matched with 15 consulting companies.
Inter-Community Memorial Hospital, Newfane, N.Y., which wanted to assess and improve cancer services in its community, is already implementing the consultants' recommendations.
Heathrow, Fla.-based Medical Planning and Consultants, and Arlington, Va.-based W.W. Rice Healthcare reviewed cancer statistics and interviewed physicians, hospital staff and community leaders. They suggested that the hospital offer regularly scheduled free cancer screenings, conduct educational programs and collaborate with community organizations.
The hospital offered free mammograms for the underinsured or uninsured last month and in November will co-host a health fair at which free prostate and colorectal screenings will be provided.
To educate consumers about the importance of yearly cancer screenings, the hospital staff appeared on local television. In addition, 71-bed Inter-Community has partnered with numerous community organizations to form Healthy Living Partnership, which helps plan and sponsor cancer screenings.
Inter-Community serves Niagara County, which has the highest cancer rate in New York and a higher cancer rate than the U.S. average.
"We had provided some free cancer screenings from time to time but had nothing regularly scheduled," says Carolyn Moore, director of community relations at the hospital. "Because there is not a designated center and because we provide services to a large community and a large rural population, we felt it was our duty to study what was being offered and to see if residents needed more."
Another consulting project helped 116-bed Victory Memorial Hospital in Waukegan, Ill., create a corporate eldercare program to assist working adults who care for their homebound parents.
The new project supplements the existing community eldercare program. With almost 400 community volunteers, some nurse volunteers and a handful of staff members, the hospital provides free clinical care and practical services such as grocery shopping to low-income, homebound elderly. For the corporate project, Victory Memorial is targeting employers who can offer eldercare benefits to employees on a fee-for-service basis.
"We realize there are many employed caregivers struggling with taking care of aging parents," says Karen Majkrzak, manager of the eldercare program. "At the same time, we needed to implement a program that would be fee-based, because all the existing services are provided without cost. We hope that the corporate eldercare program will help us continue to fund the other services."
Consultants from Clarendon Hills, Ill.-based Physician Management and Chicago-based Woodrum helped Victory Memorial staff develop a survey and identify area employers who would be interested in the project. They are also working to refine package proposals and costs for the program.
The eldercare program will launch in January 2000, and eight to 10 employers have signed up for the service, Majkrzak says.
The other healthcare providers that received pro bono consulting services are Audrain Medical Center in Mexico, Mo.; Church Avenue Merchants Block Association, a community-based social-service organization in New York; Chester County Health Community Partnership in West Chester, Pa.; Community Health in Chicago; Heartspring, a school in Wichita, Kan., for children with multiple disabilities; Valley Children's Hospital Foundation in Madera, Calif.; and Wheeling (W.V.) Health Right, a free health clinic for the working uninsured.