Moving upstream: Healthcare makes bigger strides to address social needs
In 2019, few phrases were uttered more often by healthcare officials than “social determinants of health.”
From affordable housing initiatives to funding economic revitalization of impoverished communities, the year saw industry leaders make some of their biggest investments yet toward addressing socioeconomic factors.
Interest in social determinants had been building over the past few years. But 2019 saw providers view such efforts as bigger than simply fulfilling a community need.
A growing number of hospitals made social determinants key to their population health management strategies. Many see related interventions as the most cost-effective way to provide care in a reimbursement landscape that’s encouraging providers to take on more risk.
However, the return on investment remains unclear in many cases. That’s discouraged many systems from taking action. Still, a study published in September in JAMA found most hospitals now screen for at least one social need, with many incorporating that information within their electronic health record systems.
The year saw a few stakeholders begin to develop ways to use their EHRs to not only screen for social needs but help clinicians connect their patients to community resources. Kaiser Permanente, CVS Health and Aetna launched social care networks in 2019 that connect patient to resources, track referrals and service outcomes to gauge how well patients’ needs are being met.