Health care stakeholders have long recognized that factors outside the health care system—the social determinants of health—influence an individual’s health and well-being. Many hospitals and health systems are working to navigate the challenges of effectively linking community and clinical services to improve health outcomes in the long term. The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions conducted a nationally representative online survey of about 300 hospitals and health systems to identify their current health-related social needs activities and investments and their potential future efforts. To better understand how hospitals and health systems may be operating in the larger health care ecosystem and the challenges they face, we also interviewed representatives of hospitals, health plans, and nonprofit community organizations.
Our research shows that hospitals and health systems are investing in health-related social needs, and that leadership support is high: 80 percent of hospital respondents reported that leadership is committed to establishing and developing processes to systematically address social needs as part of clinical care. However, our findings also indicate that much activity is still ad hoc (defined in our survey as occasional and only reaching some of the target population), and gaps remain in connecting initiatives that improve health outcomes or reduce costs. Some of our key findings include:
- Hospitals are screening patients and intervening around social needs, though some activity is fragmented and ad hoc
- The health care system’s shift toward value-based are may spur more investment and activity around addressing social needs
- Hospital investments vary and sustainable funding may be a challenge
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