AMSTERDAM - St. Mary's Healthcare has commissioned a study to identify the health care needs of residents in Fulton and Montgomery counties and to possibly expand primary care services.
According to Julie Pierce, director of community benefits and outreach at St. Mary's, the assessment will use a survey and focus groups, which will include local organizations, to develop a profile for the community, examining access to health care and other data.
The survey also was mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." Tax-exempt hospitals, like St. Mary's, are required to conduct community needs assessments every three years.
However, Pierce said, the need for the study goes beyond a mandate.
"We, as a catholic health ministry, have always recognized the value of getting to the root of our community's health concerns," Pierce said.
The data gained from the study will be used to enhance existing medical services and develop new services and new ways to deliver current ones, Pierce said.
"This [study] is a vital part of our community benefit planning and process here at St. Mary's," Pierce said. "It allows us to better align our outreach and health improvement strategies more accurately and use our resources more effectively."
Pierce said the survey started Sept. 1 and is run by Professional Research Consultants Inc., which handles patient satisfaction scores for St. Mary's. The company is conducting the survey by calling people in Fulton and Montgomery counties and asking questions.
Pierce said the questions in the survey are predominately about the quality of health care people receive in the area, and general health questions - including questions about diet, exercise and health conditions - to get a better understanding of the quality of life.
The survey will continue until December, Pierce said.
In a letter to the community, President and CEO of St. Mary's Victor Giulianelli and Vice President Danielle Bonetti both stressed that participation in this survey is critical.
"The information we learn from this will be the foundation for long range planning that may include the development of new programs and allocation of available resources," the letter said.
Pierce said once the information has be gathered, there are plans to share it with local governments and organizations such as the Montgomery County Office of Aging, Central Civico and school districts.
Pierce said local organizations also will be invited to focus group meetings to provide information.
For more information, call St. Mary's Healthcare at 842-1900 or email Piercej@smha.org