New Regulation for Improved Screening Process

By: Aprill Murphy

ALBION, Nebraska (December 26, 2023) – If you are a patient at Boone County Health Center, you can expect our staff to ask a few more personal questions. The purpose of this is to gain a more comprehensive understanding of our patient’s overall well-being and identify potential concerns that may influence health outcomes. This new and complex screening process is required of all healthcare entities beginning January 1, 2024, by the federal government.

Social determinants of health are nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes. Research from the Nebraska Hospital Association shows that quality of care and access to care determines 20% of an individual’s overall health. At the same time, the remaining 80% is determined by social needs, including socioeconomic factors (education, job status, income, family support, community safety), physical environment (housing, food, quality air and water, utilities, transportation) and health behaviors (tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol use, sexual activity).

Understanding social determinants allows healthcare providers to take an in-depth look at patient care, considering the medical conditions and the broader context of how patients live. Social determinants can be strong predictors of health risks. For example, not having enough healthy food or lacking access to safe housing may contribute to higher risks of chronic diseases. Understanding a patient’s living conditions can impact the likelihood of following a specific medication regimen.

Identifying social determinants that may impact health also allows healthcare providers to connect patients with appropriate support services and community resources. This may include mental health support, housing assistance, or nutritional programs.

Incorporating social determinants into healthcare discussions fosters better communication and engagement between providers and patients. It helps build trust and a more collaborative relationship. However, the decision to provide this information is ultimately up to the patient. At BCHC, respecting patients’ autonomy is essential.

“Treating a symptom in healthcare has always been an approach every healthcare delivery system wants to avoid, as it doesn’t get to the real issue at hand. Though this regulation adds to the ever-changing healthcare landscape, we believe it will lead to productive dialogue amongst patients and healthcare staff to address current and future issues affecting long-term health. At BCHC, our goal is to ensure patients feel comfortable and respected, while our knowledgeable healthcare team takes a holistic approach to patient care, and these changes supplement that process,” said Caleb Poore, Chief Executive Officer of Boone County Health Center.