A growing number of physicians are not only asking their patients, “what’s wrong,” but “what’s happening?”
This new awareness of the impact of life outside the exam room in determining health care status is fostered by the growing number of studies and discussion around social determinants of health (SDOH). Social determinants of health are the conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, and work that affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes. While SDOHs are traditionally outside of the health system, they impact individual and population health.
A recent study by the Permanente Medical Groups found that one-third of Americans are stressed to meet basic needs such as stable housing, adequate food, and reliable transportation. More than one in four cites an unmet social need as a barrier to health. Twenty-one percent prioritize paying for food or rent over seeing a doctor or getting a medication. Overwhelmingly, physician leaders are stepping up to help patients meet these conflicting needs.