Where Health Begins: Lessons from TEDMED’s Great Challenges

Reprinted with permission from HealthLeadsUSA.org.

On September 12th, Health Leads Chief of Staff Sonia Sarkar took part in the TEDMED Great Challenges Google Hangout, “Where Health Begins,” to discuss the role social determinants play in patients’ health.  Special guest Mindy McGrath, Director of Government Relations at the Association of Academic Health Centers (AAHC), kicked off the discussion by sharing the AAHC’s new online social determinants of health toolkit for clinicians, patients, and community members to access best practices for addressing the social determinants of health.  Here are some of our key takeaways from the discussion:

  • The primary access point of care should be within the doctor’s office. While key contributors to health exist outside the doctor’s office, the clinic can still be the place where patients connect to the resources they need to be healthy.  As Sonia pointed out during the discussion, the doctor’s office can effectively be the hub for both medical care and social service connections:

What we’ve been focused on at Health Leads is ensuring that patients have access to the information they need to be healthy within the context of the healthcare setting.  What is important about this particular access point of care is that…it enables us to think about the interplay between where patients get access to resources and where they get access to healthcare.  You can bring those two things together, rather than having the two systems remain separate.

  • We must train health professionals for the new 21st century model of healthcare. As more and more institutions seek out ways to address social determinants, future healthcare professionals must be aware of and understand the full set of factors that affect their patients’ health.  Doctors need to have the knowledge and resources they need to have these tough conversations with patients.
  • We can repurpose the traditional clinic to meet patients’ non-medical needs.  From standard screening paperwork and the prescription pad to electronic medical records, there are a number of tools already in place within healthcare that can be reinvented to address patients’ non-medical needs in conjunction with medical care.

At Health Leads, we are excited to be a part of these important conversations on the social determinants of health.  While we recognize that a number of factors that affect patients’ ability to get and stay healthy exist outside the clinic walls, our vision for healthcare includes the idea that the doctor’s office can be re-imagined to be the place where patients go to address these most basic resource needs.

Watch the TEDMED Great Challenges discussion.  Read more about the Association of Academic Health Centers’ Toolkit.

Panelists included Dr. Bob Atkins, Associate Professor of Nursing at Rutgers University, Dr. Sandeep Kishore, Co-chair of the Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network, Dr. Anne Beal, COO of Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and Mindy McGrath, Director of Government Relations at the AAHC. The panel was moderated by Amy Lynn Smith, healthcare communications writer and strategist.