A toolkit published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) can help primary care physicians recognize unmet social needs that may be impacting their patients’ health. “Social determinants of health (SDOH) are widely recognized as having an important impact on health and mortality,” reports AHRQ. “There is emerging evidence that screening for and attempting to address unmet needs within a primary care setting can improve patient health.”
The screening protocol, titled Identifying and Addressing Social Needs in Primary Care Settings, provides direction for practices who wish to begin SDOH assessments, as well as recommendations to connect patients with needed services to improve their health. The AHRQ toolkit includes the following key considerations:
- Determining what social needs information to collect, while accounting for the patient population’s languages and literacy levels;
- Establishing a standardized approach to collecting social needs information that ensures there is no stigma associated with the assessment and staff is sensitive, empathetic and honors patient privacy;
- Developing protocols that refer and connect patients with the necessary resources, as well as follow-up procedures to ensure they received assistance; and
- Incorporating this information into future treatment plans that will optimize care for the patient.
Further, adopting these practices into routine primary care benefits both patients and providers because, as explained by AHRQ, “Collecting information about social needs allows clinicians to develop treatment plans that are better tailored to a patient’s unique needs and priorities – resulting in plans that patients may be more likely to follow.”
The complete resource is published on the AHRQ website. MLMIC recognizes that social factors are impactful on health. Practitioners should consider these elements and how they may influence patients’ treatment decisions, compliance with medication regimes and their plan of care. Assessing and addressing social needs will enhance patient outcomes and satisfaction.