Social determinants of health — such as poverty, lack of education, racism, discrimination, environment, and community conditions – should be a common strategic conversation in health care. The links between social conditions and health care resource use are now well documented – see Lifetime Stressful Experiences Worsen Risk Of Developing Alzheimer’s , Residents Of Disadvantaged Neighborhoods May Have Increased Alzheimer’s Risk, Children Who Witness Violence Are Three Times More Likely To Inject Drugs As Adults, and Majority of Physicians Cite Poor Health Outcomes Due To Lack of Social Supports . The question is, what to do about it? Is there a best practice for assessing those types of problems – and designing social support solutions?
So it was with interest that I read about how researchers with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have developed a 10-item screening tool to identify health-related social needs (see CMS Develops 10-Item Screening Tool Focused On Social Determinants) – the Accountable Health Communities Social Needs Screening Tool. This tool focuses on five domains that can be addressed through community-based services – including housing instability, food insecurity, transportation difficulties, utility assistance needs, and interpersonal safety. According to the National Academy of Medicine publication, Standardized Screening for Health-Related Social Needs in Clinical Settings, the tool will be used by CMS to evaluate the impact of local partnerships between health care providers and community service organizations.
I think the idea – if not this specific tool – is an important one for a more structured approach to addressing social support needs and conducting more granular research on the effects of social conditions on health status and resource needs. It provides the basis for a “prescription” (of sorts) for social supports, like a prescription for therapy or medication. And it is also the first step toward more formally incorporating social needs in our approaches to health care financing (see Medicare’s Path To Incorporating Social Determinants Into Value-Based Payment), Are Health Plans The Future Of Social Service Funding? and The Top Priorities For Innovation Are…).
I realize we’re a long way from making this a reality, but it is a step in the right direction and we’ll keep you posted on the continuing developments in this important area. For more now, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- Strategies For Addressing The Social Determinants Of Health
- Tending To The Social Determinants Of Health – Or Not
- Social Determinants Of Health & Medical Homes
- Population Health Management & Social Determinants – First, Define ‘Community’
- Social Determinants Of Equity & Social Determinants Of Health
- Data Set Directory Of Social Determinants Of Health At The Local Level
For more, on how health plans are pushing to redesign health care, join me at The 2017 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat on September 26 for the keynote address from Martha R. Temple, Senior Vice President, Behavioral Health Services, Optum, “The Future Of Health Plan/Provider Organization Business Relationships.”