By creating a framework for social determinants of health that explores patients’ needs and prioritizes team members’ response, specialty practices can more effectively strengthen health equity, access to care, and health outcomes.
Social determinants of health (SDOH) have a tremendous impact on care outcomes for patients with chronic and complex disease. However, uncovering the factors that could influence outcomes—from food insecurity to health literacy to access to reliable transportation—can be challenging for specialty practices.
Researchers believe SDOH could affect 80% of health outcomes. That’s especially concerning given that recent data indicate a large proportion of adults are experiencing hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, from economic hardship to symptoms of anxiety or depression. Adults in households with children are “more likely to report food insufficiency, symptoms of depression or anxiety, and no confidence in [their] ability to make next month’s housing payment.” Other populations that face higher risk include Black and Hispanic adults and adults 43 years and younger.
For specialty practices, the opportunity to make a significant difference in SDOH is exciting—but it can also feel intimidating. Screenings for breast cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer, and more plunged during the pandemic. Now, experts predict a surge in patients presenting with advanced cancer, something many specialty practices already are seeing. This raises numerous practical concerns for specialty practices, including:
A systematic approach to identifying and responding to SDOH—developed as part of a chronic care management (CCM) program—can become “the great equalizer in care” by helping to address these challenges. Such an approach empowers care navigators and medical assistants to act as “extenders” for specialty care practices, making connections that uncover health risks and social needs. In doing so, it supports reliable access to care resources and community services for those who need them most.
Creating the right framework for SDOH identification and response is key. Here are 3 key elements to consider.
By creating a framework for SDOH discovery and response that explores patients’ needs and prioritizes team members’ response, specialty practices can more effectively strengthen health equity, access to care, and health outcomes in a rising-risk environment.