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Tower Health seeking community input on health issues

Tower Health is looking for some feedback from its patients.

The health system is doing community health needs assessments at three of its hospitals in the region: Reading Hospital, Phoenixville Hospital and Pottstown Hospital. The IRS requires nonprofits to complete the assessments every three years to keep their tax-exempt status.

The assessments have two main goals, said Desha Dickson, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion and community wellness at Reading Hospital.

The first is to identify the vulnerable populations served by the hospital.

“You have to know who in your service area is having difficulty getting well and staying well,” Dickson said.

The second, she said, is to craft and commit to a plan to address the challenges those populations are facing.

“It’s not enough to know about it, you have to do something about it,” Dickson explained.

A key part of accomplishing both of those goals is hearing from patients, asking them about the hurdles they face and what kind of services they’d like to see from a hospital. And that’s why each of the three hospitals has begun doing community surveys.

“They are very targeted, they have some questions very specific to our community,” Dickson said.

The hospitals began sending out the surveys to patients on March 11. They can also be completed online.

Following the surveys, the hospitals will conduct focus groups and interview key informants and local stakeholders, Dickson said. They are also digging into all sorts of data.

Dickson said the hospitals will collect information for a good part of the year and begin working on crafting their action plans near the end of 2024. Those plans will be completed by the start of July 2025.

The more-than yearlong process is quite in-depth, Dickson said, noting that it shows how serious Tower Health takes the process.

“We don’t have to do it this way,” she said. “Some hospitals will do the whole process in 30 days or 60 days. But being this thorough gives us confidence in the programs that we’re putting in place.”

Dickson said the health system has a good record of using the assessments to create much-needed programs or to eliminate ones that aren’t quite working.

“If people were to look at our previous needs assessments they can see that we develop programming based on them, and that’s based on what the community tells us,” she said. “And if we can’t justify a program, we can’t put it into place.”

And example of a successful program put into place based on a needs assessment is one that Reading Hospital initiated in 2016 to address obesity.

Dickson said a needs assessment found that people wanted to get out and be active but didn’t know where to go. So, the hospital created the Berks Trails Challenge.

“We identified different local trails with different difficulties,” she said. “And people could take part in the challenge and post their results online. They could even win gifts.

“It was a free and safe way for people to get out and exercise.”

The complete the online health needs assessment is at

Source: Berkshire mont

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