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Health professionals recognize that social factors such as food, housing and economic insecurity, affect health outcomes. Researchers conducted a qualitative study to gain practical insights into strategies used by clinicians, leaders and policymakers to address patients’ social needs in the United States.

They selected sites to ensure diversity in ownership, structure, geography and urbanicity, ranging from small primary care practices to  multi-state health systems. Interviews focused on how organizations develop and implement case management-style programs to assist patients with social needs including staffing, assistance intensity and use of referrals to community-based organizations.

The authors identified four barriers to addressing patients’ social needs including: 1) effectively engaging CBOs; 2) obtaining buy-in from clinical staff; 3) considering patients’ perspectives; and 4) ensuring program sustainability.

Researchers conclude that many health care organizations will likely develop or rely on case management approaches to address patients’ social challenges and may require support to address the key operational challenges.

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