News & Commentary

How To Fight Doctor Burnout Using Social Determinants of Health

It turns out that addressing the social determinants of health can be good for primary care physicians as well as patients—if there’s a social worker or pharmacist on the care team. It also helps with burnout problems if the clinic is part of a patient-centered medical home.

“It is not surprising that physicians who reported having a social worker on staff would report higher capacity to assist patients with social needs,” noted Emilia De Marchis, MD, of the University of California–San Francisco and her coauthors. Having a pharmacist on board can help with care coordination (including medication refills) and patient education, they found. Also, having a social worker or pharmacist on staff might allow PCPs or other staff to better address patients’ SDOH.

They reported their results in the January–February issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

De Marchis and her colleagues pointed out that causal direction might go both ways: Are doctors first burned out and then see their clinics as not addressing SDOH, or do they become burned out because the clinics fail in this regard? Their tests for interactions indicate, though, that burnout is the effect, not the cause.

The study was based on data collected from 1,298 PCPs in freestanding ambulatory primary care clinics or in hospital-based clinics.

The authors claim that theirs is the first study to include a national sample of PCPs in assessing the relationship between doctor perception of a clinic’s ability to address SDOH and physician burnout.


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