MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Mercy Health in Muskegon wants to know more about the people it serves. To do that, it’s conducting a big survey.

Mercy Health of Muskegon is a nonprofit hospital, so the IRS requires it to conduct a community survey every three years. It’s known as the Community Health Needs Assessment.

“After you share it broadly with the community, you convert that into a community health improvement plan or an implementation strategy,” Stevie Riel, executive director of the Health Project with Mercy Health, explained to 24 Hour News 8 Thursday. “And we use that to guide the work that we do for the next three years.”

The last assessment was completed in 2015. It identified diabetes, access to primary care, lack of mental health care providers and substance use disorders as top issues to address.

“We’ve been able to share some successes back with the community, particularly around access to care,” Riel said. “We’ve added on to our primary care infrastructure. We’ve expanded hours.”

Riel said that if the hospital did not conduct the assessment, it would be relying on data not specifically rooted in or tailored to the communities it serves.  

There’s also another big reason to do the assessment:

“Hospitals have lots of different requirements to maintain their tax-exempt status,” she explained. “There have been instances in other parts of the country where hospitals have had that status revoked, which is a huge financial burden and has caused a lot of changes within those systems.”

The hospital’s current survey asks about residents’ perception of health, as well as their own physical health and emotional health.

“It’s more rooted this round in really identifying where we have gaps of information availability in the community and trying to establish a baseline and get that information,” Riel said.

Riel said the hospital wants to reach everyone, including non-English speakers.

“We want it to be a statistically sound sample,” she said. “We would really love 5,000 completed responses. We’ve averaged over the last couple of rounds about 3,000 and really set a goal for us to exceed that.”

The survey is active through June 29.

“It’s really important for us to understand how you access health care, how you think about your health,” Riel said. “And if we don’t know, we can’t make things better. If we don’t know what isn’t working from your perspective, then we can’t take that into consideration when we have opportunities to make changes.”