Specialists tend to be valued primarily for their medical expertise, so when a physician takes time to get to know a patient, the doctor is usually praised for having a good bedside manner.
But growing evidence shows that knowing about a patient’s life is also crucial to quality of care. For cardiologists, familiarity with those social and educational realities may mean the difference between ineffectual care and achieving desired health outcomes.
Sonia Anand, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of medicine and epidemiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, told Managed Healthcare Executive® that social determinants of health (SDOH) should play a critical role when physicians create care plans. “The physician needs to understand their patients’ SDOH situation to choose the medications, follow-up plan and future appointments,” she said. Anand noted, though, that time constraints may make it difficult for physicians to ask questions related to SDOH. Still, there is significant evidence that SDOH are not properly attended to. Results of a study reported in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved in 2015 showed that one-third of patients had uncertain access to food, housing or money to pay bills, yet less than half (41.6%) of patients said their physicians were consistently aware of those struggles.