Primary Care Practices Employ Technology, Questionnaires to Address Social Determinants of Health

December 21, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


​Partners HealthCare (Boston, Massachusetts) has implemented technology-based tools to help screen its primary care patients for health-related social needs and connect them with community-based resources. Speaking at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care, held December 9 to 12, 2018, in Orlando, Florida, Kerry McBride Winrow, senior program manager, and Jenna Mayer, project specialist, described the scope of the program, goals, results, and lessons learned. Partners developed a 13-question screening tool (available online in English and Spanish with a paper-based version in six languages) addressing factors such as employment, housing, food, transportation, and intimate partner violence. The questionnaire is sent through the patient portal to all adult and pediatric patients who are new patients or attending annual physicals or nonemergent follow-up visits. Patients who do not complete the questionnaire through the patient portal are asked to respond on an iPad upon arriving at the office. Patient responses are automatically uploaded to the electronic health record, "which allows for a more real-time, action-oriented conversation between the patient and the care team," said McBride Winrow.

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