Patients' Unmet Social Needs: Health Care's "Blind Side"

    • March 23, 2012

For patients who lack access to nutritious food, adequate housing and reliable transportation, addressing medical needs may be a secondary concern. Last December, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released survey findings indicating that four in five physicians believe patients' unmet social needs are directly contributing to worse health for Americans. Some 85 percent of primary care doctors say that it is as important to address patients’ social needs as it is to treat their medical conditions.

The survey was conducted in fall 2011 by Harris Interactive. Three-quarters of respondents said they wished the health care system would pay for the costs associated with connecting patients to services if the social need was deemed important for their overall health.

To continue this important conversation—and identify solutions to bridge the gap between medical care and social needs—RWJF is planning a national discussion with prominent leaders and health care professionals, including nurses, doctors and social workers.

The webinar will take place on April 5, 2012, from 1:30-2:30 pm ET. It will examine possibilities for nurses, physicians and other providers to connect patients to community resources that can improve their health. It will also look at the business case for providers, clinics and hospitals to bridge the gap in treating medical and social needs.

Jane Isaacs Lowe, senior program officer and team director of the RWJF Vulnerable Populations portfolio, will moderate the panel discussion. The conversation will continue on the “Health Care’s Blind Side” discussion forum—already under way on the Foundation’s Community website—through April 13. Nurses and others can also follow or join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #RXsocial.