Where Are Social Needs Workshop Alumni Now? Survey Shows Interventions Taking Hold

By Therese Wetterman, MPH

Throughout my career, I’ve noticed that many healthcare organizations understand how important it is to address their patients’ essential needs – such a food and housing insecurity – but struggle with the best ways to incorporate it into their specific care setting. That’s why, when I joined Health Leads, I was thrilled to help lead our Social Needs Workshops – these are five-week, virtual courses designed to guide provider organizations through the key drivers and best approaches to integrate social needs into patient care. Health Leads and other guest faculty present best practices and customized counsel, but I’m always most excited to see participants share their own stories and see how they collaborate across clinical sites.

Nearly 110 diverse organizations – from community clinics to large hospital systems – have participated in the workshop series since it first launched three years ago. We reached out to more than half of the workshop alumni to collect feedback and data on the progress of social needs interventions in their institutions. Many have gone on to successfully develop action plans, launch pilot programs, integrate social needs into care and establish meaningful collaborative relationships with other organizations – but we wanted to dig even deeper to see if these interventions were taking hold.

The complete findings and observations from our survey can be found in our latest white paper: Measuring Progress Against Key Drivers of Social Needs Integration. Our survey helped us understand key trends among health care delivery organizations and where there are opportunities to further support providers. Some of my favorite insights include:

  • No one has stopped their strategic efforts to address SDOH. Everyone who responded is still moving forward with their efforts to address patients’ social needs.
  • The most common challenge is finding dedicated funding. A lack of funding impacts staffing and capacity and access to integrated data and technology to support program evaluation and growth. On a positive note, many organizations have developed solutions to their funding challenges. There is an opportunity to share these examples, so other partners, organizations and communities can learn from the techniques.
  • Community health workers are increasingly being integrated onto clinical teams. Through their efforts, activities to identify and address patients’ social needs are becoming embedded more frequently into clinical care delivery.

Reading these results, I have so much hope looking forward. Not only is there an increased amount of attention being paid by providers, payers, and policy makers to understanding what people and communities need to be healthy, organizations across the country are doing innovative and effective work to help address patients’ critical social needs. As a result, there is a real chance to build off all the collective learnings from the field. I look forward to continuing to work with these healthcare organizations to implement and improve interventions customized for their communities and accelerate the connections and learnings between them.

Stay Tuned! We will be sharing case studies featuring 201 Workshop alumni. Stay tuned for more information.

Therese Wetterman, MPH, is the Director of Learning Network at Health Leads and can be reached at twetterman@healthleadsusa.org.