Despite being one of the world leaders in medical care and research, the United States (U.S.) spends the most amount of money on healthcare, yet better patient outcomes are subject to debate. Not only do physical ailments and mental health disorders affect the health of the population, but social determinants, such as environmental factors, education and transportation availability, also play a prominent role in determining health outcomes. The U.S. healthcare system has typically focused on providing care for physical conditions and diagnoses, yet many patients may have a secondary behavioral health condition. In addition, all patients have their own specific set of social determinants that should be taken into consideration when providing healthcare. These factors ultimately impact behaviors and health outcomes of individuals.
A white paper published by Deloitte Consulting discusses the implications of social determinants on patient outcomes and healthcare costs. It encourages us to seek out and investigate methods to provide more integrated patient care within hospital systems and the U.S. healthcare system as a whole.
Addressing social determinants is a challenge for healthcare providers but a necessary one to help improve patient outcomes along with the added benefit of reducing costs. Some of the ways hospitals can respond to this challenge is by implementing coordinated care, care management or integrated care programs. However, despite varying existing program models, each type brings its own barriers with accessibility, communication and information management being the most complex. By working through these barriers and integrating care for patients, hospitals have the potential to not only affect patient outcomes but also reap the benefits of controlling costs. Rush University Medical Center, for example, is using a tool in their emergency department that allows them to screen for social and structural determinants of health. When used in conjunction with a recently instituted community health needs assessment and the community health implementation plan, this method helps address healthcare disparities in the local neighborhoods and brings positive changes to their patient outcomes.
For more information on the Deloitte paper: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/life-sciences-and-health-care/articles/social-determinants-and-collaborative-health-care-for-plans-and-states.html
For more information on Rush University Medical Center: http://www.hhnmag.com/articles/8441-rush-university-medical-center-targets-community-health-disparities or https://www.rush.edu/sites/default/files/community-health-implementation-plan.pdf