News & Commentary

Doc–Social Worker Will Feed You Now


Americans see the link between health and the social determinants thereof, and would like their physicians to help them connect to community services and other programs that could address those needs, according to a survey by Kaiser Permanente. Sure, access to doctors is important to overall health, say 92% of respondents. But also important is stable housing (89%), balanced meals (84%), reliable transportation (80%), and supportive social relationships (72%).

Results of the online survey of 1,006 adults released in early June touched on many aspects of SDOH. For instance, 39% of respondents frequently or occasionally feel stress over their families’ need for food, balanced meals, or both. The overwhelming majority (93%) said that their medical provider should talk with them about it. Not many respondents would feel annoyed (10%) or nervous (10%) if a medical provider were to ask them about their social needs.

Here’s what else people want providers to ask them about:

  • Safe and stable housing (83%)
  • Social relationships and isolation (78%)
  • Transportation to work, school, appointments, or activities (77%)

Why? Because 35% lack the confidence that they could identify the community resource that would best address their SDOH needs.

The survey data were collected by KRC research through a blinded online questionnaire.

The same day Kaiser Permanente released the survey, it also announced that it was starting to roll out its SDOH initiative called Thrive Local, which is an IT tool embedded in electronic health records that the insurer hopes will make it easier for providers to help patients with their SDOH needs. The health plan is launching Thrive Local in stages in its large coverage areas, starting with its northwest region, which includes Oregon and southwest Washington State.

Imelda Dacones, MD, the president and CEO of Northwest Permanente, said in a statement that “we, as physicians, need systems and networks that address our patients’ social needs.”

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