Patient social challenges hurt care quality, study finds

Low income, mental health diagnosis and involvement with the justice system can negatively affect the quality of care patients receive, a study published in Annals of Family Medicine has found.

Using data on poverty, mental health, newcomer status and justice system involvement from the Population Research Data Repository in Manitoba, Canada, the researchers defined 11 social complexity factors.

The researchers then measured these factors among 626,264 primary care patients who had at least three visits during 2010–13 to providers in Manitoba.

The study revealed 54 percent of patients had at least one social complexity. Four percent of patients had five or more complexities.

In the study, these social complexities were linked to poorer outcomes on primary care indicators for prevention, including breast cancer screening, managing chronic diseases, care of older adults and use of health services, such as ambulatory visits.

The patients who faced more social complexities were more likely to seek ambulatory or emergency care and were less likely to receive preventive care.

To improve health equity among these patients, the researchers suggest health officials look into different funding models that acknowledge the complexity of addressing social determinants of health for primary care patients and expanding models of care that are interdisciplinary and tailored to patient populations.

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