Community-Integrated Health Networks provide a unified and consistent approach to program delivery across a geographic area, either regional or statewide.
Networks allow small community-based organizations to provide uniform service delivery across a larger area, increasing opportunities to contract with health care entities.
The Community-Integrated Health Network Model
Centralized, coordinated processes refer to logistical practices for recruitment, referral, enrollment, marketing, quality assurance and evaluation that are carried out under the direction of a central organization and coordinated among a network of partners. The model for providing services in this way is known as the Community-Integrated Health Network. It provides a unified and consistent approach to program delivery across a geographic area, either regional or statewide. The central organization is the center of activity that connects a network of partners, including health care systems and local community organizations who offer evidence-based programs, all working together toward a common goal.
Health plans and large health care provider systems are interested in partnering with organizations that have the infrastructure to respond quickly to a large number of referrals, enroll participants in workshops, offer quality workshops on an ongoing basis, and provide timely data on outcomes. The Community-Integrated Health Network model offers a framework for meeting these needs.
Key Benefits of the Community-Integrated Health Network
- Provides a uniform, consistent way for potential participants to learn about and access programs and receive services
- Increases program efficiency by reducing duplication of efforts
- Appeals to health care entities, as there is one organization, rather than several, with which to interface and communicate
- Can act on behalf of its partners to negotiate and sign contracts with the health care sector
- Provides a framework to increase program reach and can respond to the volume demands of health plans or health care systems by aligning the efforts of many organizations
Health plans and large health care provider systems are interested in partnering with organizations that have the infrastructure to quickly respond to a large number of referrals, enroll participants in workshops, offer quality workshops on an ongoing basis, and provide timely data on outcomes. The Community-Integrated Health Network model provides a framework to meet these needs.
Five Key Steps to Building Community-Integrated Health Networks
- Develop a Leadership Structure
To succeed, Community-Integrated Health Networks should have an effective leadership structure to provide direction, develop and coordinate logistical processes, and mobilize resources across the network of partners. A strong leadership structure includes adequate staffing, information sharing among the network of partners, and inclusion of both community-based and health care partners in discussions and decision making. At a minimum, your leadership structure should include a director and a program manager. The director is responsible for engaging partners in establishing a vision, mission, and goals for the Community-Integrated Health Network and mobilizing action across the network. Another important role is that of the program manager, who is responsible for overseeing activities related to the direct implementation of the program across the network of partners. Initially, one individual might serve as both the director and the program manager. As resources grow and the network expands, the positions can be separated. Community-based organizations that form the network, as well as health care partners, should be involved in leadership opportunities and have a voice in decision making.
- Define Roles and Responsibilities of Partners
Defining the roles and responsibilities of partners will focus the work of your Community-Integrated Health Network, help avoid disagreements, keep stakeholders engaged, and increase productivity. As you consider assigning roles and responsibilities, be sure to include your partners in the decision making process. Listen to their input about ways that they think they can make a contribution, and identify the strengths that they can bring to the network.
- Make Decisions about Program Delivery, Quality Assurance, and Evaluation Processes
Once roles and responsibilities are defined, involve your partners in discussing and coming to an agreement about program delivery and evaluation processes, including communications, referral, marketing, and quality assurance and performance measures or outcomes. Decisions need to be made about which organizations will serve as host organizations, provide sites for program implementation, contribute leaders, make referrals, help market the program, offer in-kind support, contribute funding, or assist in other ways to support the network. It is important to develop formalized, written implementation and fidelity processes or manuals to guide your efforts and to define the structure, channels, and flow of communication. Involving your partners in the development of these guidelines from the beginning will keep them engaged and can lead to better processes and outcomes.
- Maintain an Infrastructure to Respond to Volume Demands
Health care organizations are interested in serving their broad base of consumers and want to be assured that you have the mechanisms in place to offer evidence-based programs or other key services on a regular basis throughout a defined geographic area. You must have an adequate infrastructure in place to support ongoing delivery. You will be expected to demonstrate that you have processes in place to handle a large volume of referrals and to collect, monitor, and manage participant and program data in a timely manner.
- Develop a Sustainability Plan
It is important to think about sustainability of your Community-Integrated Health Network, because you want to be recognized as a trusted and reliable partner to offer the program on an ongoing basis to meet the needs of your health care partners. Business and sustainability plans are a blueprint to help you scale and sustain your programs beyond grant funding. Your sustainability plan should include diversification of funding streams, including payment or reimbursement for your services from health care organizations.