Addressing social determinants of health (SDoH) helps patients and doctors.
Health Plans

Surprising connection between SDoH and physician burnout

March 6, 2019
Addressing social determinants of health (SDoH) helps patients and doctors.
President and CEO

It comes as no surprise that the majority of physicians believe social determinants of health (SDoH) matter for their patients and SDoH assistance would help improve their care and outcomes. A Leavitt Partners study of physician attitudes about SDoH found:

  • Transportation: 66% of physicians believe assistance arranging healthcare transportation helps patients
  • Housing: 45% say affordable housing aids patients
  • Food: 48% believe getting sufficient food benefits patients
  • Income: 54% consider income assistance a help to patients
  • Healthcare Pricing: 75% say patients benefit from information about the price of healthcare and health insurance

The same Levitt Partners study also showed physicians believe someone other than them, ideally a person outside their office or practice, is best positioned to help patients with social determinant challenges. For example, more than 70 percent of physicians in practice for less than 20 years believe transportation assistance would help their patients, yet only 15 percent think doctors or their offices are responsible for helping.

Physicians are burdened by quality metrics

There are reasons to believe physicians’ desire for others to help their patients address social determinant challenges stems from feeling overwhelmed by the administrative demands of medicine and epidemic levels of physician burnout. It is any wonder given the time and expense of documenting care provided to support quality metrics such as HEDIS® measures.

Research published in Health Affairs showed physician practices spent more than $15.4 billion a year dealing with quality reporting. In 2014, the average physician practice dedicated 15.1 hours each week per physician – or 785 hours a year - processing quality metrics. Most of these hours were logged by staff, but the same study showed physicians spent 2.6 hours a week on quality metrics, time that could be used to care for nine additional patients.

Geneia’s Physician Misery Index has increased to nearly four out of five

Geneia’s national physician survey found 89 percent of doctors believe the “business and regulation of healthcare” has changed the practice of medicine for the worse; 57 percent strongly agree with this statement. Our survey also showed the Physician Misery Index has increased to nearly four out of five since our inaugural report in 2015 and 80 percent of doctors admit they are personally at risk for burnout at some point in their career.

Research shows addressing patients’ social needs may reduce physician burnout

The January-February issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine reported “improving clinical capacity to respond to patients’ social needs may reduce primary care physician burnout.” The study found burnout was less likely to be reported by family physicians “with a high perception of their clinic’s ability to meet patients’ social needs,” suggesting that addressing patients’ social determinant challenges may help reverse epidemic levels of physician burnout.

That’s why I’m so pleased to share with you our white paper, Social Determinants of Health: From Insights to Action. In the paper, we discuss how physicians and care managers are using SDoH data to improve the care and outcomes for populations while personalizing healthcare for individuals.

Social determinants of health white paper