Doctors Want to Address Social Factors Affecting Health
A recent survey of doctors finds that they are well-aware of the impact of social needs on their patients’ health. The survey of 1,000 primary care physicians and pediatricians was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
More than 4 in 5 of the surveyed doctors agree that unmet social needs are directly leading to worse health and that patients’ social needs are as important to address as their medical conditions.
However, 80% of these doctors are not confident in their capacity to address their patients’ social needs, which impedes their ability to provide quality care. Physicians wish they could write prescriptions for health-promoting services such as fitness programs, nutritious food, and transportation assistance.
Based on these data, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published Health Care’s Blind Side: The Overlooked Connection Between Social Needs and Good Health. This report concludes with three strong recommendations:
Recognize that social needs are connected to Americans’ health.
Equip physicians and other health care practitioners with the resources they need to make patients healthy.
Rethink the health care system to address unmet social needs.
More good discussion of these issues can be found in this blog post by Dr. Douglas Jutte, a professor at University of California Berkeley’s School of Public Health. He recounts the story of a patient whose, “long-term health and well being…hinged not on the quality of my medical care but on a taxi voucher and a broken carburetor.” He also has a number of recommendations, such as reimbursing providers for these non-medical interventions that improve health and more appropriate training of doctors in medical schools.
As Dr. Jutte points out, some people are surprised by the survey results showing doctors’ awareness of the importance of social factors in health. The survey shows that doctors are concerned about social factors, now we need the systems around them to support their efforts to improve their patients’ health.