Addressing the Social Determinants of Health: The Role of Health Professions Education

Publication Year: 2016
Patient Need Addressed: Care Coordination/Management, Patient satisfaction/engagement
Intervention Type: Service redesign
Type of Literature: Grey


Insights Results

Overview of article

  • One important aspect of change is adding curricular content to address social determinants of health (SDOH). A recent survey found that 80% of physicians who responded acknowledged the importance of SDOH in their patients’ lives, but rarely addressed them. In addition, most physicians believe that unmet social needs of their patients contribute to worsening of health, yet also feel unable to address health concerns caused by these needs


  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan requires patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs) to refer patients to social service agencies. Primary care providers and specialists participating in the PCMH program must show that they: 1) Maintain a database of community resources; 2) Train staff to identify and refer patients to these resources; 3) Have a systematic approach to assessing patients’ needs and making referrals; 4) Track referrals of high-risk patients to community resources; and 5) Work to ensure that the patients follow up on their referrals. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan pays PCMH healthcare professionals’ enhanced fees through a fee-for-value reimbursement system. This was possible due to savings received through the PCMH program
  • The PCMH model can assist homeless patients through interprofessional care teams, which can not only provide medical care, but address poor living conditions, food insecurity, and lack of transportation. The Valley Homeless Healthcare Program (VHHP), in Santa Clara County, California, has clinics located near the local shelters that provide homeless patients with care from physicians, nurses, behavioral health providers and social service providers. There is no advance appointment needed and all clinics are walk-in only

Key takeaways/implications

  • Health professionals, health professions education, communities, and social services must come together to address health disparities. Health professions education must provide the skills needed to train students to become quality healthcare professionals that practice in rural and underserved communities after graduation