People, in general, are used to the idea of going to hospitals or private clinics at the first sign of illness. But imagine, for example, a single mother facing economic problems who cannot even afford public transport to a hospital. In cases like this, coordinated care networks (CCNs) come into play; these are organizations capable of connecting people in need with a wide range of trusted health services and resources in their own community, such as nonprofit hospitals, clinics, community groups, etc.
Acting with the help of government entities, CCNs are an alternative to the performance of private hospitals as they allow for more direct action. They provide basic healthcare while strengthening community ties. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a coordinated care network yet, understand the basic steps for successfully implementing the system.
Come Up With a Plan
As with anything in life, implementing a CCN starts with planning. As government and local entities need to work together, one of the first steps is to carry out a community health assessment (CHA) to collect and analyze data from the population. This can be carried out at the state, territorial, or local level. The data collected will help to identify the main health needs of your community.
Based on the results, a community health improvement plan (CHIP) is drawn up. It will provide information and subsidies to point out short and long-term paths to solve (or at least minimize) the public health problems identified in that community. Based on this plan, government health agencies can collaborate with community partners to define better actions to promote local health.
The COVID-19 pandemic proved how technology improves communication in health: digital systems were created to map and monitor the crisis, including mobile phone apps that alerted users who were close to an infected person.
Coordinated care networks use technology to help individuals find healthcare. You should think of easy ways to apply technology to processes that help people in your community and at the same time notify local organizations who receive care. Tools and software to track and analyze health information can create a more detailed picture of your community’s reality, which can be quite different from the rest of the city or state. This will allow direct investment in areas that really need it.
Provide Proper Training
All parties involved need to be trained on best practices. This applies especially to community health workers who will have direct contact with the population. The region where you intend to implement a CCN will determine the need for specific training. For example, a network in rural areas requires different practices than one implemented in a big city, or workers may need to receive training to communicate in Spanish with Latino immigrant communities.
They should be familiar with the basic programs provided by the network and should receive training to provide health assistance. Here are some attributions of community health workers:
- Patient evaluation
- Skills to understand the local culture
- Understand a foreign language, if necessary
- Ability to identify risk factors
- Organizational skills
- Promotion of health practices
- Disease prevention and first aid management
- Collection and evaluation of individual data from the people served
Some associations provide specific training—on how to prepare an oral rehydration solution, use condoms correctly, etc.—and there’s also a lot of official material available for free on the internet. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made available a detailed manual on heart disease and stroke prevention practices.
One of the most important aspects of having a coordinated care network in your community is the possibility of recording data capable of showing its main needs, something that is crucial for improving local health programs.
In addition to helping better understand community needs, keeping up-to-date data on the local reality allows for a more efficient fight against chronic diseases. You can share your community information with state and national health centers, which will have accurate statistics on the incidence of serious illnesses.
Suppose your community numbers identify many cases of obesity or depression, for example. In that case, it will be easier to create pilot programs and seek public resources to more directly address these needs.
Keep Your Community Healthy
Starting a coordinated care network in your neighborhood might seem challenging and like a lot of work, but the direct benefits are immeasurable. Continuing to ask for more action from government or state entities is no guarantee of outcomes. A local network can detect more urgent needs, directing efforts and investments to address them.
Improving the health of a community starts with teamwork, real collaboration with real people (not statistics), and collecting and sharing up-to-date information about local health. Coordinated care networks allow a collective approach to health dealing directly with the locals, something that no private hospital will be able to do.