In a recent pilot project, 58 percent of clinicians went into the project thinking they were too busy for social determinants of health (SDOH) screening, but only 21 percent felt that way by the end of the project. Why? It turned out that only 27 percent of patients screened reported a social need, and only 23 percent of patients who reported a need requested assistance from the clinic. The practice recommends the following steps to lessen the workload on clinic staff:
Start small. If clinic capacity or support is low, start with just one or two screening questions based on the needs that are most prevalent in your practice. As staff gain experience and become comfortable with the process, consider expanding the project.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to design your own screening tool. Many helpful tools already exist, including this one developed by the University of Colorado AF Williams Family Medicine Center.
Make it a team effort. The success of your project rests on the strength of your team. Make sure everyone on the care team understands their role so the work doesn’t all fall on the physician. For example, get clarity about which patients will be screened and during what part of the encounter, who is responsible for administering the screening questionnaire, who is responsible for acting on results, and so on. Also, build connections with community organizations and service providers and create a resource directory so that you can act on the needs your patients disclose.
Read the full FPM article: “The Feasibility of Screening for Social Determinants of Health: Seven Lessons Learned.”
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