According to part one of the 2022 Survey of America’s Physicians, six in 10 physicians said they feel they have little to no time to effectively address their patients’ social determinants of health (SDoH).

The Physicians Foundation released the first of a three-part survey to examine how SDoH affect physicians and their patients. Part One of Three: The 2022 Survey of America’s Physicians was conducted exclusively online from February 3 through February 11and included 11 questions, intentionally designed to last no more than 10 minutes.

Key findings include:

  • Nearly all physicians said their patients’ health outcomes are affected by at least one SDoH and more than half reported “many of their patients” are affected
  • Physicians reported financial instability and transportation as the two leading SDoH experienced by their patients
  • More than half of physicians said SDoH challenges cause them to experience stress or frustration on a daily or weekly basis, with the top stressors including limited time during patient visits to discuss SDoH (71 percent), insufficient workforce to connect patients with community resources (64 percent), and payer reporting requirements taking time away from being able to address patient’s SDoH challenges (63 percent)
  • Eight in 10 physicians believe the U.S. cannot improve health outcomes or reduce health care costs without addressing SDoH
  • Six in 10 physicians said they feel they have little to no time to effectively address their patients’ SDoH, but 87 percent of physicians want more time to do so in the future
  • Eight in 10 physicians believe addressing patients’ SDoH contributes to physician burnout rates

The survey also inquired about the strategies and policy changes that could better support physicians in the future. Most physicians support the following strategies:

  • Investing in community capacity to address SDoH
  • Investing in technological and human capacity to connect patients with community resources
  • Conducting patient screenings to identify social needs
  • Significantly reducing existing payer reporting requirements and other administrative burdens
  • Creating financial incentives for physicians’ efforts to address SDoH

 The most important policy steps identified included reimbursement for physician-directed efforts to address SDoH, incentives for payers to invest in community resources, greater flexibility for Medicare Advantage to reimburse for SDoH, and the integration of SDoH into payment policy.

“As we continue building broad-based understanding of SDoH and their implications for patients and physicians, it is critical that physician and patient voices remain central to the discourse and decision-making,” wrote study authors. “It is through addressing SDoH that we can improve patient outcomes for everyone and ensure that the physician workforce is well supported and financially recognized for its partnership with patients.”