Step-by-Step: Utilizing an Innovation Process to Redesign the PHAB Annual Report Process

Public health innovation is essential to foster transformation, but what does the innovation process truly look like? What strategies are organizations implementing to both improve and innovate their products, services, and tools? This month, the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) shares how they utilized an innovation process to improve a component of the accreditation process.

PHAB’s mission is to advance and transform public health practice by championing performance improvement, strong infrastructure, and innovation. As we strive to fulfill this mission, we recognize that PHAB must continually examine how such processes can be applied to our organization as well. As part of this, and through our efforts to continually improve our customer journey and experience with accredited health departments, it became clear that it was time to examine the Annual Report process to assess and better understand how it could provide the most value. Through PHAB’s regular feedback mechanisms, PHAB had data that helped shed light on where health department’s saw opportunities for changes in the Annual Report that could be built upon.

With the release of Version 2022 of the PHAB Standards & Measures, it was necessary for the Annual Report to mirror changes and provide a more consistent line of sight between initial accreditation and reaccreditation in the Annual Report. While small changes had been made to the Annual Report process in the past, PHAB recognized Version 2022 as an opportunity to revamp the existing reporting structure and use innovation as a tool to foster creativity in dreaming up new solutions. Because there was no known or obvious solution, the PHAB team leveraged internal expertise through our Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI) to utilize a design thinking approach and innovation mindset to create an Annual Report process that was grounded in experiences of our key stakeholders.  PHAB also used various quality improvement (QI) tools and techniques as well.

Over the course of a year, PHAB engaged a range of people/agencies who are customers of the Annual Report process including accredited health departments, the PHAB Evaluation and Quality Improvement (EQI) Committee, and PHAB staff.  Our goal was to find a solution to the question: How might we enhance health departments and EQI members’ experience with PHAB’s Annual Report process and requirements? The following outlines the steps we took through the innovation process:

  1. We developed a process map, which was then used to create a customer journey map to elicit high points, pain points, and how people felt and what they experienced as they went through various requirements of the Annual Report.
  2. We held an ideation session to brainstorm the breadth and depth of possible solutions to a redesigned Annual Report process that was grounded in providing value to health departments. The process allowed for big ideas and small tweaks to be discussed.
  3. We put together a prototype utilizing the ideation results to test with our key partners.
  4. We engaged in quality planning efforts to finalize the design and plan for the launch of the redesigned Annual Reports.

By centering our customer’s voices, PHAB was able to determine what changes would contribute a greater value to accredited health departments. Historically, the Annual Report was transactional – the health department submitted a report and received feedback. With input and ideas gained throughout the design thinking process, we determined that some health departments are interested in having a different Annual Report experience. We were eager to learn that there are health departments that want to use the Annual Report process to both engage with PHAB and engage their health department colleagues. Changes were made to reduce the number of technical process steps, align the Standards to Version 2022, and make the transition to a new e-PHAB platform. It was also important to us to provide intentional opportunities for health departments to expand internal involvement in completing the Annual Report, as well as an overall sense of using the report to prepare for reaccreditation.

The redesigned Annual Report provides PHAB an opportunity to exhibit flexibility amid an always changing public health environment. By incorporating a new option to self-select focus areas for each annual submission, health departments can better position themselves to reflect on their growth and identify potential areas for improvement. PHAB hopes the redesigned Annual Report provides an agile space so that as needs are identified or trends emerge, we can provide opportunities that incorporate learning and sharing.

Interested in learning more about the Annual Report? Contact April Harris,

Reena Chudgar, MPH, is the Director of Public Health Systems and Services at the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) supporting implementation of the Public Health National Center for Innovations and Center for Sharing Public Health Services efforts. Reena joined PHAB/PHNCI in April 2019 and engages with health departments and communities in using innovation as a tool for transformation. Her work centers around strategy and program implementation, and is passionate about social and systems change, addressing root causes of historical and current racial and health inequities, and local and people-centered decision making.  Prior to joining PHAB, Reena served as Director for Performance Improvement at the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO), where she supports health departments in fostering partnerships, cross-sector collaboration, community and strategic planning, and more. Reena received a Master of Public Health degree and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Emory University.

April Harris, MPH, CHES is a Senior Accreditation Specialist at PHAB, where she oversees accredited health departments’ Annual Report process. Prior to joining PHAB in 2016, April served as Deputy Director at Three Rivers District Health Department in Owenton, Kentucky. She holds a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Kentucky and an undergraduate degree in Public Health from Western Kentucky University.