Social determinants of health: 4 things medical students need to know

Social determinants of health can impact a person's overall health just as much as genetics, which is why physicians should ask questions relating to more than just biology when screening patients, according to the American Medical Association.  

The following SDOH categories have not traditionally been covered when clinicians document patients' health information: economic stability, access to education, health literacy and insurance coverage, community and workplace discrimination and neighborhood limitations such as access to housing, transportation and food, according to the report.

Here are four things medical students should know about SDOH to gain a wider range of understanding of patients' health information and histories:

1. Physicians should ask questions that help determine how a patient is impacted by SDOH factors, such as "Do you have difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month?"

2. Screening questions should follow with interventions for the practice team to consider when managing a patient that presents SDOH needs.

3. After a physician targets the patient's SDOH factors, the medical professional can provide the individual with reference materials on hand that include information such as where to find nearby food pantries and shelters.

4. Any information the physician gathers relating to the patient's SDOH needs can be added to the EHR for other clinical practice teams and providers to access.

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