Jul 5, 2022 - Health

Addressing social determinants in health care effective but costly

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Addressing social needs like housing, food security and transportation could reduce hospital inpatient admission rates by 11% and emergency department visits by 4%, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

  • But, but, but: The cost of those interventions may be greater than the savings derived, the researchers found.

Why it matters: Addressing so-called social determinants of health is nothing new but has gained currency within federal programs and major health systems for its potential to help drive health costs down for some people. But it's still unclear what the true impact is.

Zoom in: The researchers from Contra Costa Health Services and the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health studied an adult Medicaid population where patients were randomly assigned to 12 months of social needs case management or the control group.

  • The intervention programs saved $3.4 million, or 17% of yearly program expenses, in hospitalization costs.
  • The effort also helped build trust with the health system and resolve basic social needs, they said.
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