By Emily Roebuck ’20, Davidson Impact Fellow with Atrium Health/McKay Urology
The last few months have been full of networking and professional development, as well as understanding the major operational considerations behind systemic change. In December, we completed our Social Determinants of Health Screening (SDOH) Pilot in the urology department, which demonstrated a high level of unmet social need among our patient population and the feasibility of developing workflow around SDOH. Time since then has involved extensive data review, literature dives, and evaluation of next steps from which I am coming away with several important lessons learned.
First, I am continually amazed by the amount of knowledge that already exists around addressing SDOH and understanding their impact on health outcomes. This reminds me that while my first reaction upon seeing a problem might be to find a way to solve it, it is important to first evaluate if someone has already done that work before you, because oftentimes, they have. In my literature dive, I see that many clinicians, public health workers, and policy makers have been shouting from the rooftops about the impact of SDOH on patient and population health for years—specifically since the 1980s from what I see. So, as we figure out our next steps in implementing more permanent change around addressing SDOH in urology, we do not necessarily need to reinvent the wheel or create any novel intervention. Rather, we need to open our eyes and ears to learn from those who have been participating and leading in this work before us.
This brings me to my next learning point, which is the great value in networking. I was apprehensive to ask too many questions when I first arrived for fear of bothering those with already-busy schedules and in my mind, more important tasks to attend. Yet having now seen the wealth of work already being done in healthcare around SDOH, I have been compelled to seek out conversations within and outside of Atrium to explore opportunities for learning and when possible, system alignment. From each of these contacts, I have left with a deeper understanding of their current efforts, as well as seen how many people in this space are also eager for knowledge sharing and initiative overlap. For instance, I reached out to Health Leads, a community service organization, after reading about their program in a review. From there, I have been connected with several folks over at Duke who have implemented an SDOH screening and patient navigation model which would greatly benefit our practice here. In addition to learning things that work well, I can also see previous barriers based on their experience that I might not have otherwise considered.
While I might have known these lessons before, seeing their importance in real-time has certainly cemented their value —and above all, patients and communities will be better helped as a result of this collaborative learning.