- The California-based health system Kaiser Permanente commissioned a survey to get a glimpse into the social needs of Americans and found that nearly 75% are frequently stressed about meeting the needs of their families when it comes to food and housing.
- An overwhelming number of Americans want their doctors to ask them about their social needs. About 93% said their doctors should ask about their access to meals and 83% believe doctors should ask them about safe and stable housing.
- Almost half say they would turn to their doctor or medical provider when seeking community resources to address their social needs, and 30% said they would turn to their insurance provider for the same information.
Health systems are increasingly focused on addressing the factors affecting patients' health outside of their medical care.
Societal factors such as income and housing can have an outsized role in shaping a person's overall health. Providers and payers have initiated various efforts to tackle these factors, commonly referred to as social determinants of health (SDOH), that can lead to poor health.
For example, someone who is socially isolated or lonely is more likely to go to the emergency room, according to experts at Optum, a division of UnitedHealth Group, which also owns UnitedHealthcare.
Because societal factors greatly affect a patient's overall health, it's important for providers to know more than a patient's medical history.
Kaiser Permanente launched a program last month that will help "seamlessly match an individual's social needs with the appropriate services from within a robust network of nonprofit, public, and private resources." The program will be able to be integrated into the system's EHR program so providers can have a window into the patient's social needs and how they're being addressed.
Medicare Advantage plans now have the ability to offer — and receive reimbursement for — nontraditional services such as meal delivery and transportation.