Got a Minute? Tap into Patients’ Social Needs

Got a Minute? Tap into Patients’ Social Needs. Patient talking to a clinician.Sometimes simple solutions can yield big results. Take the case of Virginia Commonwealth University’s department of family medicine and population health. It created a tool to measure the biggest social priorities for patients in the emergency department and the hospital that could be completed in a minute or less.

The goal: to determine which social needs were adversely affecting patients’ health most frequently. This would enable the organization to then identify resources where they could have the greatest impact and ultimately lower costs and burden to the system by decreasing complications and avoidable readmission rates.

Here’s how the survey was conducted, according to a recent study in the Annals of Family Medicine. A research team member approached patients in the ED waiting room as well as inpatients with the 60-second, 15-question checklist survey, printed on a 4-by-6-inch card. Patients were asked to identify their age, gender and whether they needed help with such issues as food, housing, utilities, transportation, day care, substance use, etc., within the past 30 days. Patients also could write in other needs. Intake nurses also asked patients whether they had been admitted to a hospital in the last 30 days. Ninety-three percent of patients who asked to take the survey complied.

Among the findings:

  • More than 60% of patients reported at least one unmet social need within the past 30 days.
  • Nearly 8% of inpatients and ED patients surveyed reported two unmet needs and 18.4% of inpatients and 15.5% of ED patients reported three or more unmet needs.
  • Respondents listed transportation, food and housing as the most common social services they had received in the last 30 days.

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