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How can a hospital or medical center use grants?

As the leader or program director at a nonprofit hospital or medical center you may have heard that you should be applying for grants. And you may be wandering how grants can help your organization be a stronger part of the community. If so, you have come to the right place.

Now, I may be a little bias because we primarily work with health providers. But, from my experience grants on their own or combined with special events are an excellent source of revenue for nonprofit hospitals and medical centers that want to fund community benefit programs. To convince you, we have listed the Top 3 ways we feel grants can play a role in expanding your hospitals reach and impact, but first let’s go over why your hospital should NOT seek grants.

Your hospital should not use grants to charge a higher price for services. That would be unethical a least, and unlawful at worst. Especially if your grant is from the federal government. Next, do not use grants to fund programs “because the money is there”. There are so many worthy programs out here, lets be kind to one another and only request funding if you think your program will be beneficial, AND, that your organization will help sustain after the grant. Last, do not use grants for pet projects or to get the favor of big donors. Funding from special events or sponsorships will be better for that purpose. Now, with that out of the way, here you go!

Top 3 Ways a hospital can use grant funding

#1. Provide wrap-around support services

Many nonprofit hospitals are looking for ways to increase their impact in the community, while also driving down healthcare costs. This is especially true for organizations that are not paid when a patient returns or is readmitted to the emergency room or hospital for care within a short period of time (usually 30 days). Studies have shown a high percentage of these patients, sometimes called high utilizers, return because of unmet social needs like food, housing, lack of family support, or mental health issues that make it harder to be healthy. The hospitals we work with want to make it easier for their patients to feel better, while lowering healthcare costs for everyone.

The problem they face is that the programs that address nonmedical issues (i.e. social determinants of health) like case management, patient navigation, and nonmedical transportation are usually not paid for by health insurance companies. And patients cannot afford but need the extra support to manage their health. What happens? Hospitals are left paying for these programs out of their operating budgets, or not moving forward with a solution at all. Instead of this, a hospital can use a grant to fund programs that help patients feel better sooner, for longer, and for free. A win-win for everyone.

#2. Test or pilot new programs

There once was a time not so long ago when offering telehealth and peer support programs were unheard of at hospitals. What we learned during the pandemic is that these types of programs, and many other innovations, make healthcare better. They help patients by lowering out of pocket costs and making care more accessible. They help hospitals deliver care that considers the cultural and language differences that impact how people receive and understand their healthcare. And they also make healthcare quicker, increase the number of patients that can be thoughtfully served, and overall drive down costs.

But, Hospital Board members and other decision-makers are often cautious or unwilling to invest in unproven programs. They may say, “Yes, it did work at other hospitals, but will that solution work at ours?” A hospital may find grant funding is a useful way to try out new programs especially those that have services insurance companies do not pay for or reimburse. The grant allows hospital staff to work through the kinks, build a strong program, and demonstrate a good return on investment (ie reduces costs or improves quality of care)

#3. Support nonprofit community organizations

The last way that nonprofit hospitals can use grants is to support community-based organizations. A hospital often has the financial, staff, and administrative resources often referred to as ‘organizational capacity’ to apply for, win, and manage a grant. For example, Sidnae Global Research has worked with hospitals that have used grants to partner with the local food bank to provide school children weekend meals. Another example is a hospital we worked with that developed a referral network with several community based organizations, and provided those nonprofits with grant funds from a coalition building grant. We have also worked with hospitals that have been partners with the local police department to fund sexual assault programs. As the center of many communities, and often the largest local provider of jobs, hospitals make an excellent partner as the lead applicant on the grant or as a grant partner to other organizations.

To sum it up, there are many ways that a hospital can use grants but the most beneficial are:

  1. To provide wrap-around supports to improve patient care and health outcomes.

  2. Test or pilot new programs that have the potential to save money and improve health.

  3. Support other nonprofits by being the lead applicant on a grant or by serving as a grant partner.

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