Why Screening for Social Determinants of Health is Important
A five minute survey to evaluate access to social resources may not be the most pressing issue when visiting a healthcare provider. Yet, screening patients for social determinants of health has been a way to contribute to practicing preventative healthcare. As a care navigator at a federally qualified health center called Fairmount Primary Care Center, I am grateful to be a part of a healthcare team that aims to raise patient awareness of the various preventative screenings available to them.
Completing the social factors screenings has given me the opportunity to play a supporting role in a patient’s life. By reaching out to each patient that indicates some need, I am able to assist the patient in accessing crucial benefits programs in Philadelphia. From completing a high volume of screenings, I have seen firsthand how many of the health center’s patients have been negatively affected by external factors, such as nutrition, transportation, and housing insecurity.
One patient comes to mind when I think about my time screening patients for social determinants of health. From the survey, all that was known about the patient was that they were having trouble getting to medical appointments because of transportation issues. Upon reaching out to the patient, I found that their issues with transportation directly impacted their ability to make it to a surgery appointment. To be sure the patient felt confident, I collaborated with them to have a game plan for setting up transportation to their appointment. By the end, the conversation had expanded past the initial inquiry of transportation. We talked about their life and their experiences and how important it was to the patient to remain optimistic in spite of the hardships they faced.
Social factors do play a role in a person’s health. As I saw with this patient, something as seemingly simple as transportation can be the difference between a patient seeking healthcare treatment or not. The patient did make it to their appointment and was recovering from their surgery very well.