A Missed Opportunity? How Health Care Organizations Engage Primary Care Clinicians in Formal Social Care Efforts


Taressa Fraze, Laura Gottlieb, and Laura Beidler

February 21, 2022

Health care organizations increasingly recognize the impact of social needs on health outcomes. As organizations develop and scale efforts to address social needs, little is known about the optimal role for clinicians in providing social care. In this study, the authors aimed to understand how health care organizations involve clinicians in formal social care efforts. The authors identified 4 ways that administrators felt clinicians could meaningfully engage in social care programs: (1) discuss social risks to strengthen relationships with patients; (2) adjust clinical care follow-up plans based on social risks; (3) modify prescriptions based on social risks; and (4) refer patients to other care team members who can directly assist with social risks. Administrators were hesitant to increase primary care clinicians' responsibilities by tasking them with social care activities. Defining appropriate and scalable roles for clinicians along with adequate support from other care team members may increase the effectiveness of social care programs.