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3 Ways to Secondary Data Can Drive Primary Research for Community Health Needs Assessments

Posted on October 4, 2015

Secondary data is a powerful tool for Community Health Needs Assessments. It can be used to establish a baseline for understanding local populations and identify need often at the county level. However, it can also be used as a resource for fueling primary research, an essential component for effective CHNAs. Below are three ways secondary datasets can propel primary research efforts for Community Health Needs Assessments.

1.) Understand Broad Research Topic Areas

When developing Community Health Needs Assessment surveys, hospitals are often unsure which questions they should ask and on which topics they should focus. Secondary datasets can highlight subject areas to study and probe for additional insight. For example, by understanding the top ten conditions of the hospital service area a hospital or research consultancy firm can decide whether or not they should host focus groups to understand the needs of their cancer or mental health care patients. By using the broad picture that secondary data provides, you can easily choose where to apply your primary research survey resources.


2.) Reveal Specific Questions

Secondary datasets can help you quickly see the big picture of your hospital service area but they can also lead you to uncovering even deeper insights. These insights can then be used to generate survey questions, focus group topics and other materials for primary research. The benefit is that you have a clear lead for research development and won’t have to waste time or resources asking the wrong questions.

Let’s say for example, you identified that 74% of your hospital service area agreed that they “Rely primarily on my doctor to guide me on medical and health matters”. You could then use this data point to build additional questions such as “Do you always take your doctor’s advice?” or “Would you be comfortable trusting a physician’s assistant to guide you on medical and health matters?”. By having a breadth of knowledge up front, research consultancy firms and hospitals can ensure their Community Health Needs Assessment covers all areas that the community is most need of discussing.


3.) Survey Reach and Format

Beyond uncovering the areas of focus and questions types you need to ask, secondary datasets can also help in the distribution of primary research. Knowing where and when to conduct primary research is just as important as developing the questions. If no one is around to fill out your survey, it won’t be very helpful to the Community Health Needs Assessment! Secondary data that demonstrates which communication channels are most popular with your hospital service area ensure that you don’t miss out on anyone’s opinions or inputs.

In the example below, we can see that 70% of the population prefers face-to-face conversations when speaking with colleagues and associates. This could indicate that they would be more interested in a focus group where there’s a live exchange of opinions and thoughts. While a survey posted to Facebook or Twitter may sound like a good way to share a survey, it probably wouldn’t be the best for this population as only 6.9% say they prefer to communicate this way.



Secondary datasets are so much more than statistical records of events occurring within a hospital service area, they can enlighten hospitals and research consulting firms on a bevy of topics and potential areas of exploration. CentraForce Health offers a simple yet vast amount of syndicated, localized secondary datasets that easily paint the picture of hospital service area populations for Community Health Needs Assessments. Scroll down and connect with us to learn more.