Hospitals and community benefit organizations can offer a lot to each other in improving the health of a community, but also have a long way to go in working together efficiently.

In recognition of that, the aging-focused SCAN Foundation just released a report highlighting six community benefit organizations that the foundation believes are on the vanguard in terms of becoming true care coordinators. SCAN also has released a number of tools and courses targeting CBOs that are designed to broaden their skills in becoming broad care coordinators.

The idea is to ramp up the role community benefit organizations play in the health care continuum after relying for decades on the current approach. "We've been sort of perfecting a model that's 25 years out of date," said Bruce Chernof, M.D., president and CEO of the SCAN Foundation.

"Can we reimagine how community benefit organizations and health care providers work together?" Chernof asked. "This body of work is an effort to begin to understand if we can do that," he said.

A major part of what the six role models attempted to do was sign contracts with payers to provide services they thought were necessary. Silicon Valley Independent Living Center's goal was to create an infrastructure that would result in the deinstitutionalization of 20 percent of residents in Santa Clara County, Calif., who were eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. That effort ran into some major challenges, but the CBO learned a lot about structure and organizing, according to the report.

Another of the six, the Institute on Aging, San Francisco, set a goal of signing a contract with a health plan that would provide value to the plan while generating a positive net income for the institute of at least 5 percent. The institute believes it has created a model for establishing future partnerships, but experienced several challenges in implementation.

"We've seen some great early results," Chernof said, but CBOs in general need to adapt their ways to meet expectations of hospitals that are seeking help.

At the same time, hospitals can find value in CBOs with reducing readmissions and improving discharges, particularly if they're already stretched thinly. But, that will vary by community and even within communities.

Hospitals are already stepping up cooperation with public health departments.

And hospitals need to get started on this right away. "One should not underestimate what Secretary (Sylvia) Burwell and CMS have been saying. The path to value-based purchasing is set," Chernof said.

"It's important for hospitals. In whatever way, shape or form they need to begin to experiment and understand," he said.

"I don't see just purely waiting as a great strategy."