Meet Michigan Medicine: Community Benefit

December 18, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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Meals on Wheels, Project Healthy Schools, Safety Town — these are just three of the dozens of community programs run or sponsored by Michigan Medicine each year.

Keeping track of the long list of programs and the essential services they provide — which aid thousands of residents in the area — falls on the staff members that make up Michigan Medicine’s Department of Community Benefit (CB).

Here’s what you may not know about the tiny team that ensures the organization is making an enormous impact in the community.

Working together

Each year, CB collects and analyzes information from each program including how many people benefit, how many dollars are put into the program and how many hours are logged by staff members to carry out its services.

“We work hand-in-hand with the staff at each program to make sure we have accurate numbers to report to the IRS and other federal agencies,” said Maria Thomas, director of CB for Michigan Medicine.

Community Benefit’s reach expands far beyond just monitoring community service-oriented programs. Uncompensated care provided by specialists at Michigan Medicine is tracked and reported as well.

“Often, there are patients we see who cannot afford to pay for their care and do not have the necessary insurance to cover costs,” Thomas said. “As part of our mission we want our care to be accessible to everyone, which means we provide financial assistance, subsidized health services and other forms of unreimbursed care, all of which we also report to the federal government.”

Additionally, Community Benefit logs the hours that faculty and staff members devote to performing community service or serving on professional or educational boards. It’s a monumental task — requiring CB team members to either work directly with administrators in major departments or to rely on individual staff members to submit information themselves.

“We’ve created so many close working relationships with people across the health system,” Thomas said. “That’s because we are invested in capturing the remarkable ways in which our colleagues feel drawn to different causes and give their time and expertise to make a positive social impact.”

Assessing needs

In addition to reporting on programs after services have been provided, CB is also charged with regularly performing a community health needs assessment.

The assessment, required by all nonprofit hospitals under the Affordable Care Act, takes place every three years and helps identify needs in the community, as well as specific plans to address them.

“During the 2016 assessment, we realized that new moms in Washtenaw County needed more resources, especially in low-income areas,” said Karen Zynda, CB program coordinator in charge of the Michigan Medicine needs assessment. “So we’re looking to improve our programming, giving new mothers places where they can learn, receive resources, or find a support group where they can lean on others who are going through similar experiences. We’re constantly looking at ways to help improve lives.”

While the assessment takes place every three years, its ramifications are felt at all times.

“We’re either making changes based on a previous needs assessment or making preparations for the next one,” Zynda said. “It’s an ever-changing process — just as the needs in the community are constantly changing.”

Fulfilling Michigan Medicine’s mission

Why is it so important for CB to keep accurate data and perform a needs assessment?

It’s simple: the mission of Community Health Services, where CB is housed, is “to lead Michigan Medicine in improving access, equity and health outcomes through programs and services provided in the community.”

“By analyzing the needs of the community and our organization’s current services, we can best determine whether or not we’re carrying out that mission,” Zynda said.

Thomas put it even more succinctly.

“Reporting is a means to an end,” she said. “Michigan Medicine is a unique resource for everyone in the Ann Arbor community and around the state. Our assessments help us leverage our strengths in ways that speak to our community’s most pressing needs. It’s work we feel privileged to do.”

Interested in learning more about any of the programs tracked by Community Benefit or what qualifies as a Community Benefit? Email

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