Incorporating the Social Determinants of Health into Medicine

The social determinants of health are "conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes." Factors such as environmental pollutants or a patient's literacy level can greatly affect their health and prognosis. While it is widely accepted that the social determinants are an important aspect of healthcare - infact, 88% of physicians said their patients are affected by at least one social determinant of health - a recent study in JAMA found that only 24% of hospitals and 16% of physician practices reported screening for them.

Before suggesting that physicians must screen for the social determinants of health, the medical industry must establish an action plan that allows physicians to take action. Reports have shown that the social determinants of health contribute to physician burnout as physicians feel helpless and unable to help their patients. Many times, patients are unable to afford medication or further visits, forcing them to be nonadherant to their care plan.

Alongside community-based and curricular changes in medical school, Caralyst is working to address the social determinants of health in healthcare by making it a large focus of our matching algorithm. We assess health literacy and how patients' income affects their approach to health and work to match patients in need with providers who have the resources to care for them. By doing do, we also urge physicians to make their practice more friendly to affected patients by implementing policies such as free cancellations, learning about cheaper medication alternatives, and identifying community referal programs.