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Physicians Foundation aims at social drivers of health


‘Let’s Take 5’ campaign will guide doctors in asking patients and recommending ways to help.

sdoh-blocks © Eakrin - stock.adobe.com

© Eakrin - stock.adobe.com

Doctors can help their patients address drivers of health (DOH) by asking questions and preparing to suggest solutions.

The Physicians Foundation has launched “Let’s Take 5 to Address Drivers of Health,” a new initiative to guide physicians in addressing economic and social conditions, also called social determinants of health (SDOH). The campaign starts with doctors asking patients about food security, housing stability, transportation access, utilities access, and interpersonal safety.

“As physicians, we are well aware of the significant burden that drivers of health have on our patients’ health, and the toll it takes on us when we are unable to adequately address them,” Physicians Foundation President Gary Price, MD, MBA, said in a statement.

“It is absolutely critical that physicians are given the support and resources they need to address these challenges,” Price said. “The Physicians Foundation is committed to providing solutions and strategies for physicians to not only have the ability to address their patients’ needs, but also be empowered to do so.”

Getting started

The campaign has an implementation guide with five steps:

  • Prepare your practice for integration.
  • Design your screening process.
  • Establish a referral process.
  • Implement your DOH screening process.
  • Submit to the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The guide noted this is the first year physicians can report two DOH measures through quality payment.

Physicians can use the Foundation’s Take 5 Conversation Starter to prepare their staff for conversations about DOH with patients. Preparation includes identifying local resources patients can use to overcome issues related to drivers of health.

Spreading the word

In conjunction with the Let’s Take 5 campaign, The Physicians Foundation is supporting five medical groups with grants to help their members integrate DOH care in their medical practices.

“These five medical associations are leading the way to ensure that physicians and their teams have the tools they need to improve patients’ lives,” Price said. “Through the development of new resources and programs, we are working to make tailored patient care easier and more effective. Together, we will continue to be a catalyst for change so that our patients’ health and wellbeing are no longer dependent on the five key types of drivers of health.”

The Physicians Foundation offered these descriptions of recipients:

  • The Arizona Medical Association is launching a Center for Excellence to include resources and programs based on a state-wide needs assessment to educate and support physicians in implementing best practices of addressing DOH in routine patient care approaches.
  • The Center for a Healthy Maryland is developing the Awareness and Referral to Resources to Improve Outcomes (ARRIO) Project to train physicians to integrate DOH screenings and resource navigation into their practices to bridge existing gaps.
  • The Foundation of the Pennsylvania Medical Society aims to engage physician practices through its project, Incorporating Social Drivers of Health into Chronic Disease Management, to support the incorporation of DOH screenings and tools into chronic disease management.
  • The Indiana Medical Foundation is creating a comprehensive website to serve as an all-encompassing resource for addressing DOH and partnering with practices to integrate or enhance frameworks to address DOH and connect patients with resources.
  • The Maine Medical Education Trust is working with five medical practices that do not currently screen for DOH to provide them with the assistance they need to implement DOH screenings and assure that patients are connected with the right resources.

Survey findings

The campaign comes as a response to findings in The Physicians Foundation’s 2022 Survey of America’s Physicians:

  • Eight in 10 physicians believe that the U.S. cannot improve health outcomes or reduce health care costs without addressing DOH.
  • Nine in 10 physicians want to address drivers of health.
  • Six in 10 physicians feel they have little to no time nor the ability to do so effectively.
  • Eight in 10 physicians believe that addressing patients’ DOH contributes to physician burnout rates.

DOH in federal regulations

The Physicians Foundation program has developed as federal regulators also consider a new “Universal Foundation” for measuring patient health outcomes.

Earlier this year, Price spoke extensively with Medical Economics about CMS’ proposed Universal Foundation, a core set of quality measures that align across programs currently using their own criteria to assess physicians, clinicians, and health care settings. The measures for adult care fall into six domains, which include Equity and the measure “screening for social drivers of health.”

That federal leadership can become a meaningful step in how doctors, patients, and health care payers address DOH, according to The Physicians Foundation.

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