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RWJBarnabas Health Is Integrating Social Determinants Of Health Into Patient Care

Earlier last week, RWJBarnabas Health announced a groundbreaking initiative: the integration of social determinants of health (SDOH) into patient care through a program called “Health Beyond the Hospital.”

The CDC broadly defines SDOH as “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians further explains that “these have a greater impact on population health than factors like biology, behavior, and health care.”

Thus, RWJBarnabas is attempting to integrate a more comprehensive care model for its patients. Barry Ostrowsky, President and CEO of the organization stated: “What defines our health is so much greater than genetics or clinical care; 80% of all health outcomes are due to social, behavioral, and environmental factors that are the social determinants of health.”

Ostrowsky continued: “We sought to bring the social determinants into the clinical process. Simultaneously, we are developing a patient-centered approach that serves patients in a consumer-friendly way while paying attention to their culture and language needs. The timely interventions made possible by Health Beyond the Hospital [HBH] will create a spiral that will positively impact the well-being of our patients and all of those caring for patients across our community.”

Indeed, the initiative will seek to “screen all patients for SDOH, including food security, access to housing, educational opportunities, smoking and substance use, transportation and other social and environmental factors. Just like temperature, weight, or blood pressure, HBH will assess all patients for factors that contribute to chronic disease, removing stigma around questions on housing, safety, or nutrition.”

Using this screening information, healthcare providers may potentially be able to better curate treatment plans and therapies according to a patient’s life-circumstances. For many patients, following through with a physician’s suggested recommendations is not a straightforward or easy process. Rather, there are numerous hurdles that may potentially arise, such as cost barriers, access to care issues, or even extenuating life-circumstances that deprioritize one’s own health. However, if the healthcare system overall is able to make a viable stride in this arena by integrating a heightened emphasis on SDOH as it applies to routine care, it may potentially be one way to improve health equity and patient outcomes.

The content of this article is not implied to be and should not be relied on or substituted for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment by any means, and is not written or intended as such. This content is for information and news purposes only. Consult with a trained medical professional for medical advice.

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