Many health issues are linked to underlying social causes and many people who need medical care also require social services. Addressing these social needs improves outcomes and reduces the need for invasive and costly procedures. But to do so requires that health and social care workers understand each other and work together.
A growing number of national and state policy initiatives have advanced integrated health and social care over the last 10 years. These initiatives include: screening patients for social risks in primary care clinics; building new cross-sector collaborations; integrating community-based organizations into healthcare systems; and financing community services with health care dollars. In the US, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) has funded several demonstrations that integrate health and social care, focusing on 1 in 5 of the most socially vulnerable Americans insured through the public Medicaid program.
One key enabling factor in the US is new value-based payment models that reward outcomes, rather than volume of services, and that have been shown to encourage healthcare organizations to focus on patients’ social risk factors. Another is a growing evidence base that social risk and societal inequalities undermine the health of individuals and communities.
A third enabling factor is the use of technology to bridge the gaps between health and social care. For example, telemedicine platforms can connect patients to health and social care professionals; provide real-time feedback on progress (e.g., when a therapist will be available) and help monitor patients’ daily activities to identify problems like inaccessible transportation that could prevent them from attending physical therapy. health and social care