Innovating to Improve Care Now and In the Future: Screening for and Addressing Social Determinant of Health Needs
Bonnie Ewald, MA, is a Program Coordinator at the Center for Health and Social Care Integration at the Rush University Medical Center.
Physicians and other health care providers can learn a lot from the world of social work. Social work, as a discipline, has long been engaged in addressing social factors that influence health. Through interprofessional collaboration with social workers as part of the team, we can both address social determinant needs today and improve the capacity of healthcare providers less seasoned in doing so. Many interprofessional education initiatives, such as the Camden Coalition’s student hotspotting program, aim to have student groups work with individuals and community resources, which will enhance those students’ care in the future. But we must also focus on how to adapt health care now to better identify and address social determinant of health needs.
Rush University Medical Center developed an interprofessional leadership group and partnered with other hospitals and agencies on the West Side of Chicago including Catholic Charities, Patient Innovation Center, UI Health, Presence Health, and Sinai Health System to form what is now known as West Side ConnectED. In this effort, the institutions are working to identify and mitigate the health and social needs of those living on the West Side of Chicago and being served by the hospitals respective emergency departments: including areas such as food insecurity, housing instability, utility needs, transportation, and access to care (including having a primary care provider and insurance). This screener was designed at Rush for discrete data collection and integration into the Epic electronic health record system, allowing for better reporting and care management. (Similar initiatives are underway across the country; if interested, we recommend reading about efforts by Health Leads, Oregon Community Health Information Network, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.)