Community Needs Health Assessment

In 2012 the Internal Revenue Service mandated that all non-profit hospitals undertake a community health needs assessment (CHNA) that year and every three years thereafter. Further, these hospitals need to file a report every year thereafter detailing the progress that the community is making towards meeting the indicated needs. This type of assessment is a prime example of primary prevention strategy in population health management. Primary prevention strategies focus on preventing the occurrence of diseases or strengthen the resistance to diseases by focusing on environmental factors generally.

I believe that it is very fortunate that non-profit hospitals are carrying out this activity in their communities. By assessing the needs of the community and by working with community groups to improve the health of the community great strides can be made in improving public health, a key determinant of one’s overall health. As stated on the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Blue Shirt Blog (CHNAs and Beyond: Hospitals and Community Health Improvement), “There is growing recognition that the social determinants of health – where we live, work, and play, the food we eat, the opportunities we have to work and exercise and live in safety – drive health outcomes. Of course, there is a large role for health care to play in delivering health care services, but it is indisputable that the foundation of a healthy life lies within the community. To manage true population health – that is, the health of a community – hospitals and health systems must partner with a broad spectrum of stakeholders who share ownership for improving health in our communities.” I believe that these types of community involvement will become increasingly important as reimbursement is driven by value.

Historically, healthcare providers have managed the health of individuals and local health departments have managed the community environment to promote healthy lives. Now, with the IRS requirement, the work of the two are beginning to overlap. Added to the recent connection of the two are local coalitions and community organizations, such as religious organizations.

The community in which I live provides an excellent example of the new interconnections of various organizations to collectively improve the health of the community. In 2014 nine non-profits, including three hospitals, in Kent County, Michigan conducted a CHNA of the county to assess the strengths and weaknesses of health in the county and to assess the community’s perceptions of the pressing health needs. The assessment concluded that the key areas of focus for improving the health of the community are:

· Mental health issues

· Poor nutrition and obesity

· Substance abuse

· Violence and safety

At this time the Kent County Health Department has begun developing a strategic plan for the community to address these issues. A wide variety of community groups have begun meeting monthly to form this strategic plan. There are four work groups, one for each of the key areas of focus. I am involved in the Substance Abuse workgroup as a representative of one of my clients, Kent Intermediate School District. Other members include a substance abuse prevention coalition, a Federally qualified health center, a substance abuse treatment center and the local YMCA, among others. The local hospitals are involved in other workgroups. One of the treatment group representatives is a co-chair of our group. The health department wants to be sure that the strategic plan is community driven.

At the first meeting the health department leadership stated that the strategic plan must be community driven. This is so in order that the various agencies in the community will buy into the strategic plan and will work cooperatively to provide the most effective prevention and treatment services without overlap. The dollars spent on services will be more effective if the various agencies work to enhance each others’ work, to the extent possible.

At this time the Substance Abuse work group is examining relevant data from the 2014 CHNA survey and from other local resources. The epidemiologist at the health department is reviewing relevant data with the group so that any decisions about the goals of the strategic plan will be data driven. Using data to make decisions is one of the keystones of the group’s operating principles. All objectives in the strategic plan will be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART).

Once the strategic plan is finished, the groups will continue with implementation of the plan, evaluating the outcomes of the implementation and adjusting the plan as needed in light of evaluation. As one can see, the workgroups of the CHNA are following the classic Plan-Do-Check-Act process. This process has been shown time and again in many settings-healthcare, business, manufacturing, et al-to produce excellent outcomes when properly followed.

As noted above I recommend that healthcare providers become involved with community groups to apply population level health management strategies to improve the overall health of the community. One good area of involvement is the Community Health Needs Assessment project being implemented through the local health department and non-profit hospitals.

Get the Most Out of Your Travel Agent

Booking air travel, making hotel reservations and arranging vacation travel in general has changed completely with the advent of the internet and many people try to be their own travel agents. While you can arrange seemingly most of your travel yourself, you can’t do as well as your travel agent in a long run!

Travel processionals, whether your local travel agent, tour operator or destination specialist still possess contacts that you as an industry outsider do not have. As in number of other professions, travel agents, whether in a shopping center near your home or an online agency, wherever they may be located, do know something you do not, have way to book and arrange travel for you in ways unavailable or unknown to you.

Traditionally you could contact a travel agent and ask for a quote, whether a price of an air ticket, hotel or a vacation package. For the most part travel agents still provide that kind of information, although there is a limit how much information they may disclose as not all information is readily available to them.

First of all, most travel agents indeed may have at their fingertips routine cost of air ticketing, hotel rates or certain vacation packages available and will be happy to provide the price information to you instantly when asked. But once your travel request will need to be somewhat customized, whether tailored to your dates of travel or your other travel preferences, to find a relevant answer will be time consuming. Because of this time element involved, do not automatically assume an agency is keen to spend the time to furnish the information you seek when there is no commitment you will travel at all.

Look at the situations from the following perspective. In the old days if you had a problem with your car, you’d drive it to your neighborhood car mechanic and asked him to see what was wrong with it. You would drop the car off at the garage, the mechanic would have a look and tell you what the problem was. He would also give you an estimate and it was up to you to decide if you wanted him to fix it right then and there, wait or seek another opinion and another quote. His services cost you nothing.

But not anymore. These days, no garage, no car repair mechanic is willing to spend time trying to find out what’s the problem with your vehicle without charging you at least one hour labor upfront. Pay and he will look and tell you. Up to you if you will decide to take your car to another shop or have him fix it, he has covered his time spent diagnosing what’s wrong with your car.

Similarly, many travel agencies and professional travel planners and tour operators will charge you an upfront travel planning fee if you are requesting travel arrangements that first of all are time consuming, or there is no guarantee you will book anything. All you are after are essentially private tailor-made travel arrangement s and there are no simple answers or options to give you, and the only way to find out will be for the agent to dig and consult all sorts of different sources he has at this disposal and then present the travel alternatives to you for you to decide upon.

When working with a travel agent, travel planner or any other travel professional such as a knowledgeable destination specialist, keep in mind that a certain protocol will assure you will get not only the kind of travel arrangements you want in general but also you’ll gain a true partner that will always work in your best interest whether you’ll travel away from home on business or for pleasure.

1. First of all, when contacting a travel agent, whether in person or online, don’t hesitate to give them your name – don’t worry, most agents won’t spam you back. Without your name when you’re asking for a valuable travel advice most agents won’t take your request too seriously. Call if you wish but most agents prefer not to take notes, email is a way to go and for an agent to look up a fare often a time means he has to plug in a name, so might as well that name will be your real name. If you decide not to accept the booking the reservation will expire and no harm done. If you decide later to purchase the reservation the agent does not have to rekey it into the system all over again.

2. If you’re trying to be you own travel agent, even in part, say you plan to book your own hotels online, disclose it to the agent your are contacting for assistance, he/she may still be interested to help you with the rest of your travel arrangements. Don’t hide your intentions from the agent as agents don’t like to be used for information gathering purposes only.

3. If at all possible, always contact your travel agent or destination specialist as soon as you know when and where you wish to travel, not last minute before your intended departure. That is even more important when you’re planning a trip to a lesser frequented destination.

4. Don’t book your flights and hotels online and ask a travel agent to do the rest, namely the difficult parts, such as complex transportation connections, travel arrangements in remote locations or to book segments that you just feel are not safe for you to book online yourself. Give your agent to design and book your entire trip for you. The worst you can do is design your own vacation package, then copy and email the same request to dozen different agents to see who may be the lowest bidder. Yes, the internet is perfect for that kind of information gathering but look at this from a perspective of a travel agent. If he/she knows you are sending the same request to dozen agents many of them will not be too interested in dealing with you. Then again, telling them the truth they will appreciate knowing what you are doing and approach the whole thing quite differently and in the end they just might offer you a deal.

5. If you’re after booking shoe-string cost of travel, for example wishing to book the lowest type of accommodations, best be your own travel agent. Do realize that agents can’t book services that are simply too cheap to begin with, not to mention that that kind of suppliers do not pay agent s any kind of commission. The agent may still help you but keep in mind he will be doing you a favor and will be working for you at no charge. If so, appreciate it, email your thank you.

Do realize that to ask an agent million questions, get all the answers, including time consuming quotes, only for you to never replay again is definitely rude and turns agents off completely. If you are polite and respectful many will often work without any commitment on your part, providing you with information you need, working for free. But because of those that just siphon info out of agents so they could possibly book travel on their own leaves not only a sour taste in agent’s mouth but certainly induces the decision to charge au upfront planning fees when a next inquiry comes.

6. On another hand, when it comes to upper end accommodations keep in mind these hotels routinely offer discounts to agents that agents can markup and still offer you room costs below hotel rack rates. Genuine agent is not interested in selling you a higher end hotel in order to make a higher commission but to tailor in a better trip experience for you where he deems it desirable.

7. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a travel agent and a so called Destination Specialist. Most travel agents use online reservation systems to book transportation, hotel and vacation packages. They essentially book or resell ready-to-sell travel offers from a variety of suppliers that do not require more than filling in your name and dates of travel. When it comes to you needing customized arrangements, they will need to contact tour operators and destination specialists that are either part of their consortium or a network they belong to. Depending on the connections they have they will or will not be able to help you.

8. Destination Specialists pride themselves in really knowing their destinations. Many of them have indeed not only traveled extensively but know a particular destination inside-out so they can arrange travel logistics for you based on knowing, rather than looking it up in a brochure or some kind of data base. Many Destination Specialists specialize in difficult, custom designed itineraries and do not sell travel packages. Often a time though not always that kind of service reflects higher markup.

9. Last, please note that many destination specialists as well as travel agents work 110 or more hours per week because especially custom-design travel is indeed very time consuming. Being good at travel logistics does take experience and while with the internet it seems second nature to be able to arrange travel on your own, many travel professional are indeed very good at what they do! They do know more about travel than you, give them a chance, they can save you not only money but also many headaches and above all, they can assure not only that you’ll travel worry-free but that you may have a trip of your life! Keep in mind, a good agent is not after selling you a single ticket or a package tour, they want you to become a repeat client, their go-to-travel processional for rest of your life.

What Travel Agents Need to Know About Corporate Travel Today

This is rightly named as the age of traveler-centricity and with the evolution of the new era of personalized travel; it is leading to research and development of a host of new so-called intelligent services. The command-and-control perspectives of traveling have changed a lot from the past and the focus has shifted more on the traveler and the productivity of each trip. It has become essential to maintain that the travelers have the greatest return on investment on each trip. New generations of young employees and managers, who have been growing up and dwelling in a digital age, are moving up the ranks as travelers. It has become essential to recognize the need for greater flexibility acknowledging that the employees who travel on corporate trips also consider a percentage of their trip to be a leisure outlet. With increasing globalization and rise in companies sending their staff overseas to network and connect with their offshore prospects/customers/suppliers, corporate travel is a highly profitable tourism segment. Before we talk about how tourism companies can better cater to business travelers, let us first look at why they prefer to use specialized corporate agencies over traditional agents

Why do businesses use Corporate Travel Agencies?

This might be the most basic question for a travel agency as to why they need to use agencies specializing in corporate travel when there are plenty of regular travel agents in the market. Here is the importance of corporate travel agencies who have online systems which allow business travelers access to their complete itinerary.

The following information is at the fingertips of the CTAs:-

full business itinerary details
up-to-date tracking details of flights (including delays or rescheduling)
transparent details about additional costs such as baggage fees or in-flight fees
travel alerts, if any, in the destined area
complete and up-to-date details about the visa procurement policies and identification required
currency requirement and conversion rates

What do corporate clients expect from Corporate Travel Agencies?

Negotiated Fares

The Corporate Agencies tend to have tie-ups with hotels, car rentals, flights etc. giving them access to lower fares which can be used only by the frequent business travelers. Discounted prices are not the only advantage though as they also offer flight upgrades, room upgrades, and VIP check-in lines as required.

In-depth information about the travel industry

Corporate travel agents have access to many travel resources and most importantly, quickly, than any other leisure travel agent. Additional information helps to make the business trips convenient and comfortable.

Changes in Itinerary

When an airline ticket needs to get rescheduled or cancelled, chances are the airline or the online service provider will charge lofty fees. When booking with a corporate travel agent, most of the times schedule changes can be done at zero or minimal extra charges.

Viable emergency contacts

It is important for the business travelers to reach the correct person at the need of trouble. Corporate travel agents have the experience and professionalism to relieve stress for both the traveler and the company.

What you need to consider as corporate travel increases?

Business Travel Barometer reported that corporate travel is witnessing an accelerated growth. However, when poorly managed, it may be no longer an advantage to companies and may, in fact become a burden. There are some factors which the corporations and CTAs must consider to get the best out of the time spent traveling.

Adopting a travel policy

The corporate must define a travel policy which is applicable to and respected by travelers at all levels. This policy should be used to establish the standards which will help to track the improvement of business travel. It will eventually help to reduce the costs of the entire package.

Do not limit the traveler’s autonomy

The management is responsible for budgeting the travel policy which helps to improve cost management however, it is also essential to give a degree of autonomy to the traveler. The policy should be flexible enough to allow the employee to adapt the trip as per the situation.

Traveler’s security should be a major concern

Business travelers need to have security in place. The company needs to stick to its definition of standards to ensure the employee’s integrity. The CTAs should have reliable partners (travel insurance, airlines, hotel chains etc.).

Mobility and automation

To optimize time and ease the processes, the administration of management platforms should have automated processes. This means they should adopt mobile solutions where search options, travel alerts, ticket reservations etc. can be accessed quickly, easily and on the go.

Corporate Travel Trends in 2016

Corporate travel trends tend to change regularly. 2016 has also not been any different and the travel management companies (TMCs) and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) are quite focused to provide steady if not strong axis all over. A growing MICE sector, investments in mobile and big data and enhanced focus on duty of care are some of their areas of focus.

Rising prices

The consolidated buzzword among global suppliers, airfares, hotel rates etc. is the rising fares. It is sometimes the move of the suppliers to generate discounts which encourage travel if there is a strong decline in demand. A positive 2016 world economy has been bringing an increase in air fares of a few percentage points, hotels are expected to see 4%-6% rise in average global rates and the competition will remain moderate in the car rental services.

Duty of care

Risk management is one of the major points of emphasis for corporations. Corporate customers are allowing new policies and improved technologies to monitor employees’ location in case of an emergency, especially when they are travelling to foreign destinations. For instance, Concur Risk Messaging helps to identify the travelers moving around in the world and alerts them with alternate travel arrangement as and when needed.

Focusing on MICE

Meetings industry is a major growing sector and the corporate travel trend is developing on it. The corporate travel agencies should better start aligning the various meeting procurement methodologies with its transient travel sourcing. One of the ways could be to broaden the variety of meeting services by incorporating incentive trips within it.

Investing in technology

A sharper focus on increasing value and becoming more traveler-centric can be done by bringing in mobile friendly technologies. Mobile and big data are definitely the two most significant technological investments which any corporate travel agency must focus to make their platform more appealing.

Business travel analysis after Brexit

Following Brexit, ACTE and CAPA shared their speculations. According to them, the greatest short-term effects on the travel industry will come from the weakening of the pound against other world currencies. Greeley Koch, executive director for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives said that the business travel industry will trend on currency fluctuations; with some companies taking advantage of the weaker pound and traveling more, while others may withhold business travel until world markets find their own level.

Impact of terrorism on corporate travelers

Travel policy makers and administrators need to be guided by rising terrorism scare. For executives and staff undertaking travel on behalf of businesses, the travel agents and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) should prove the reassurance for their safety through the travel policies. It is more than likely that the surveys conducted over corporate travelers reflect the general concern of the global business travelers about the spate of terrorism. However, there is no denying the fact that terrorist threat is changing the patterns of business travel. The key impact of this is to keep in mind that the companies providing travel services for business travelers need to enhance their focus on security and the associated risks in delivering the services to corporate clients. According to a recent finding, travel managers have higher estimation of their policy’s effectiveness in addressing risk compared to skeptical business travelers.


Although the corporate travel sector has continued to progress, there are a plethora of challenges faced by the industry. A rapidly changing consumer market, the emergence of new business models, the impact of technology, man-made and natural crises are some of the fulcrum points that need to be considered before planning corporate trips.

Communicate Health Benefits Information More Effectively

All employers have responsibility of guiding their employees about the health benefit schemes offered by them. Even the employees on the other hand also have the right to receive information about the health benefit schemes offered to them. Therefore an employer has the right to inform the employees about certain information regarding the health benefit schemes. For this reason, organizations have created the position of Health Benefit Manager having communication as one of the responsibilities for health benefit related schemes and procedures.

Key information heads to be shared by employer

There is a plethora of information available for communication. It is the skill of the Health benefit Manager to present them in a structured manner on behalf of the employer.

- Employers need to provide a detailed list of information to the employees about what health benefit schemes are provided to them or the scheme they are entitled to.
- Providing information regarding cost sharing as well as arrangements
- To take up necessary steps to resolve problem as well as to deal with appeals.
- To provide and guide its employees about the status of accreditation, certification as well as licensure.
- Provide sufficient and necessary information about the composition of the provider network too.
- To use the emergency care services as when required by the employees of the organization.
- To obtain referrals to specialists
- Most importantly provide all the information regarding the quality, safety of the health benefit plan and the cost of the employer sponsored plan.

Regulatory directives
According to the Employer Retirement and Income Security Act of 1974, it is necessary to provide all detailed information that the employees are entitled to that includes plan rules, covered benefits, documents about the plan management and operation as well. The employees are also entitled to receive a document with the summary plan description, known as SPD. The SPD contains

- Information of the health care services that are covered in the plan.
- Description of what services are being provided by the plan and how these schemes function.
- It provides information also on how to calculate the benefits.
- Explanation on the cost that the plan covers and the cost that the beneficiary has to pay.

Tools and Methods for communicating
There are various methods by which the Health Benefit Manager, on behalf of the employers, can communicate health benefit information to the employees:

- One of the best ways is to communicate with the employees about the health coverage plan but providing too much information of it should also be avoided. The employees should be given the required time to understand the scheme and ask questions if any.

- It is best to explain the changes in simple terms to the employees to make them understand.

- Apart from the employees it is also necessary to explain the health benefit plans to the health benefit managers so that they can explain it to the employees to.

- Employers should be ready to face any questions asked by employees regarding the health benefit scheme and clear their doubts.

- It is equally important as well to be direct and honest when discussing about the coverage plan especially if employees face cost increase due to the coverage plan.

- Discussing the 5C’s too is essential with the employees. This 5C’s include cost, changes in plans, coverage of the plan, comparison of the previous year’s plan and also the current option.

- It is necessary to provide information the employees about the health care providers that are available in the revised and new plan option.

- Providing testimonials of other employees about the changes in health benefit plans can also be quite helpful for the present employees.

- Taking the help of various means like internet, face to face discussions, telephonic conversations, office intranet as well as printed materials can be helpful too. However it is also necessary to use materials that are easily understood by employees.

Using health communication campaigns

What are its advantages?

- It is important for the employers to conduct communication campaigns to educate the employees about the need of health benefit schemes and how they operate.

- The responsible manager’s aim should be to identify the objective and aim of the health care campaign.

- To develop health care message that meets the objectives and aim of the campaign.

- Setting up the criteria for evaluation of the campaign and also the degree to which it is getting conveyed among the employees.

- To implement and the campaign and make sure that the employees understand message that is being conveyed by the employer.

- It is also necessary to make sure that the employees also to address the education need of the employees with language barrier, literacy issues etc.

To conclude, an effective way to communicate about the health benefit scheme is the cornerstone of every business organization. In these schemes, employers can also guide and help its employees to select a scheme and explain every detail they should know. The authority should also explain the new health scheme option and also about the changes in the existing benefits. To improve the health plan costs the employer’s must keep in mind the factor of low health literacy. Health plans and employers should also be able to successfully communicate with employees. Lastly, employees and employers should also be able to communicate clearly about the health benefit plans.