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Hospitals need greater understanding, better programs for social needs, Deloitte study says

Social determinants, including where a person was born, grew up, lives, works and ages, determine 80 percent of health outcomes, Deloitte said.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

A new survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions says that while the transition to value-based care is giving hospitals the opportunity to better align clinical care with social needs that influence health, those social determinants are often not adequately understood or integrated into treatment protocol.

Social determinants, which include the environments where a person was born, grew up, live, work and age, determine 80 percent of health outcomes, Deloitte said.

The survey involved 284 hospitals from across the nation in March and April 2017. Respondents represented hospital leadership and staff members involved with social needs efforts. The survey found that overall while hospital and health system goals are leaning more toward the alignment of social needs and clinical care, hospitals are still learning how to "reap the benefits of coordinated care and evolving payment models."

[Also: Study links social problems with healthcare costs]

For instance, 72 percent of respondents don't have funds dedicated for all the populations they want to focus on and said finding sustainable sources could be a challenge.

More positively, 80 percent reported that their leadership is committed to finding ways to address the social needs of patients in tandem with clinical care. Moreover, 90 percent of hospitals are screening inpatient populations, and 83 percent are screening "high utilizer" populations for social needs. However, only 69 percent are taking a broader approach and screening more generally.

Deloitte made a number of suggestion on how hospitals can advance their social needs agendas. First, it will be helpful to adopt a consistent definition and metrics surrounding social determinants, as it will help the industry's ability to test, learn and share successful methods. Breaking down silos and consolidate resources to avoid duplicating efforts and wasting time with practices that don't work.

Continue movement toward value-based care, as it is expected to further advance the ability to address social needs. Hospitals and health systems also need to find better ways to track health costs and outcomes. Finally, good old fashioned idea sharing could help drive social needs efforts forward. "Stakeholders should look to existing settings for information sharing such as research forums or venues where multiple stakeholders in the local or business community can share ideas," Deloitte said.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn

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