The Socioeconomic Impact Of The Social Drivers Of Health

Updated: Jul 15

Addressing Social Drivers of Health Or Epitome Of A double-Edged Sword For Patients And Physicians Alike — Or Is IT?!

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Social Drivers of Health or SDOH(also called Social Determinants of Health) have gained significant attention in the past decade by healthcare leaders around the globe because SDOH determines up to 80% of our health outcomes.

Where we live, what are our financial circumstances, if we have access to affordable, healthy foods, and other non-medical factors influence our health and wellness.

Social drivers of health care comprise conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play, like access to clean water, medical care, access to education, and a healthy workplace.

Social Drivers of Health are not the sole factors that affect our health. In contrast, Individual Determinants of Health (IDOH) like biological and genetic, age, sex, family history, and Behaviors such as diet, exercise, and tobacco use are also important. However, here I would like to focus my discussion solely on the SDOH.

Addressing Social Drivers Of Health Is vital To Public Health.

Today, we live through an era when all the necessary amenities are available but hardly ever accessible to all citizens. overcoming this obstacle where every individual has a fair chance of achieving their fullest health potential is called "Health Equity."

The modern healthcare infrastructure ought to address social and individual drivers of health to ensure health equity. But unfortunately, fulfilling such tasks by the health leaders is placing a growing administrative burden on the physician community.

In February 2022 Physicians Foundation conducted a physician survey examining how the Social Drivers of Health Affect the Nation's Physicians and their Patients. The survey is part one of the three surveys designed by the foundation.

In the survey collected between February 3 through 11, 2022, 1,502 physicians indicated that patients' health outcomes are affected by at least one SDOH. The survey did not suggest any significant variation in the answers based on the specialty.


Adapted from: The Physicians Foundation 2022 Physician Survey: Part 1

Physicians, despite knowing that there is a significant need to address the social drivers of health, nonetheless, 61% feel they do not have enough time and ability to handle their patients' SDOH virtually. Not surprisingly enough, an even higher number of physicians (87%) expressed the need for more significant time and ability in the future. Eighty-nine percent (89%) attributed the problem to the limited time during patient visits. Eighty-four percent (84%) believe insufficient workforce to steer patients to community resources contributed to their administrative burden.


Adapted from: The Physicians Foundation 2022 Physician Survey: Part 1

Eight out of 10 physicians believe that addressing patients' social drivers of health contributes to their burnout rates, where Six out of 10 (63%) feel burnout when trying to complete SDOH tasks.

We have identified multiple policy measures in the recent decade being consequential to improving the health outcomes of the patients and ensuring high-quality, cost-efficient care across the board. Those identified by the survey as • Reimbursing physician-directed efforts to address SDOH — 86% • Incentivizing payors to invest in the availability and quality of community resources to address patients' SDOH — 84% •Providing greater flexibility for Medicare Advantage to reimburse for addressing SDOH — 84% • Integrating SDOH into payment policy — 75%


Adapted from: The Physicians Foundation 2022 Physician Survey: Part 1

Addressing Social Drivers of Health Is An Extra Workload And Can Be Costly.

Some healthcare leaders and bureaucrats recon addressing the Social determinants of health are as straightforward as mandating physicians and incentivizing them to complete those tasks. As we experience today, such an approach is a double-edged sword without balancing the "quality, time, and cost" of such an injunction.

As the survey suggests, the burden of achieving quality will fall on time and cost. And since physicians persistently feel pressured for the time during the patient visit to maintain the quality health leaders are looking for, that leaves no leeway but rising healthcare costs. Conse