Most physicians don't think it's their responsibility to address patients' social determinants of health, according to a new survey from Leavitt Partners.
Most physicians say addressing social determinants of health isn't their job
Nearly half of doctors reported that their patients would benefit from food assistance, affordable housing and transportation to appointments. Yet well over 50% of doctors didn't think they or insurers have a role in providing that help.
Physicians' resistance to address social determinants comes as providers are increasingly responsible for patients' well-being with the transition to value-based payment models. Testing indicates an individual's health status is tied to their social environment, so providers are currently rethinking—and debating—the services they should offer patients and the community.
In the survey, 45% of doctors said it would greatly or moderately help their patients if they had assistance obtaining affordable housing, but 91% said it wasn't their responsibility. Forty-eight percent of doctors said food assistance would help their patients, although 84% responded they weren't obligated to provide that service. And 66% of respondents said patients would benefit from help arranging transportation to healthcare visits, yet 69% didn't think it was their responsibility.
Physicians frequently said in the survey that patients "have other resources for their social needs." They also reported that they don't have time and aren't compensated to address patients' social needs.
The report said that an array of stakeholders including physicians have an obligation to address social determinants of health.
Provider organizations need to consider physician burnout as they look to address social determinants of health, the report noted. Physicians need support staff like social workers, care coordinators and community health workers to help them address these issues.
Additionally, employers have an incentive to tackle their employees' social risk factors, according to the report. Unhealthy food or unstable housing contribute to instability including lower levels of productivity and missed work days.
The survey included responses from 621 physicians.
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