The Colorado Hospital Association released the results of its Community Benefits Survey, showing in 2014 that Colorado hospitals and health systems provided more than $2 billion in community benefits.

The benefits include services provided by hospitals to improve the overall quality of life in a community — uncompensated patient care, free or low-cost immunizations, charitable contributions, family support services, health education and community-building activities.

The CHA conducted the survey to learn more about the roles hospitals play outside of routine patient care. The survey collected data from fiscal year 2014 from 56 Colorado hospitals and measured hospital contributions, such as unreimbursed costs, uncompensated care and other free, discounted and unique programs that are critical to improving the health of Colorado communities.

Highlights from the survey showed that hospitals provided:

  • More than $1.8 billion in unpaid costs of patient care (patient unable or choose not to pay for health care services)
  • More than $254 million in voluntary community benefits, including health screenings, education, free clinics and discounted services
  • More than $73 million in charitable donations

According to data provided by Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, for the fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015) the system provided more than $54.5 million in community benefits. Six neighborhood nurse centers staffed by Penrose Faith Community Nurses offered assessments, education, referrals and pharmacy assistance to more than 4,200 individuals; the system donated 1,265 immunizations to the community in partnership with Walgreens and local fire departments; the pharmacy provided medication to 432 indigent patients; and 274,213 people were impacted through community benefit, outreach, events, services and donations.

According to data provided by Memorial Health System, its facilities provided $106.7 million in community benefits, to include $52 million in uncompensated or charity care during its 2015 fiscal year.

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“The role that Colorado hospitals and health systems play in their communities extends well beyond the walls of the traditional health care setting,” said Steven J. Summer, CHA president and CEO. “Our statewide survey quantifies the voluntary activities hospitals are providing to address the unique health care conditions and needs of Coloradans. However, the peace of mind of knowing your hospital is there for you 24/seven, 365 days a year in good health and in bad times is immeasurable.”

Community benefits programs are designed to provide increased access to care and address population health inequalities for vulnerable patients, according to a CHA news release. In order to be considered a community benefit, a program or service must respond to an identified community need and meet at least one of these criteria: improves access, enhances health, advanced medical or health knowledge or relieves or reduces the burden of government. By providing preventive health services and programs, Colorado hospitals and health systems are helping to reduce the need for more costly emergency treatment and acute care while also improving the health and wellbeing of entire populations, the release said.