The Social Determinants of Health Could Be the Key to Better Treatment for Patients
When a patient faces specific health problems, their doctor should think about the social challenges that may have caused them. For instance, if a patient doesn’t have enough money to pay for nutritious foods, medications, and secure housing, it could explain why their health is so bad. Unfortunately, you cannot prescribe a medication to eliminate social challenges.
Numerous studies have shown that up to 80% of people’s health problems are related to one or more social determinants. So if more people could have access to better health education, exercise programs, or transportation for medical appointments, it would go a long way to improve their health and wellness.
Social Economic Conditions vs. Patient Health
Primary Medical Care Center focuses on treating senior patients in South Florida. Our primary care doctors have noticed that senior health declines if patients don’t have access to suitable transportation. After all, if senior patients cannot travel to the facility for their medical appointments, they won’t get the necessary medications, check-ups, and lab tests needed to evaluate and improve their health.
For this reason, Primary Medical Care Center offers door-to-doctor transportation services for all senior and disabled patients in South Florida. We have a mobile transportation team that drives to patients’ houses and picks them up for their medical appointments at our facility. Because of this, their health has significantly improved.
Only a value-based healthcare model can provide accommodations to patients facing these kinds of social determinants. Seniors are often isolated and depressed, which leads to self-neglect. They depend on a caring team of medical professionals to show up at their doorstep and encourage them to focus on their health. Meanwhile, it allows them to meet new people so that they’re no longer isolated and alone.
Most senior citizens live on fixed incomes which are barely enough to pay their monthly bills. Their limited income is another huge social determinant affecting their health and wellness. Some stay healthy by eating fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean meats. However, others still like to eat sugary and salty junk foods, often aggravating their chronic health conditions.
It can also be a nightmare when they have to pay for an expensive repair in their homes, such as a broken air conditioner or heater. If they don’t have the money to fix the appliance, they suffer without it. That only contributes further to their declining health. Fortunately, Primary Medical Care Center can connect senior patients to third-party sources which can offer them nutritional or financial assistance. Of course, we do everything possible to keep seniors in their homes and live an independent lifestyle as much as possible. But if their social circumstances are too much for them to tolerate, we will work with them and their families to find them a senior housing or assisted living facility.
Can a Patient Change Their Bad Habits?
So how can primary care doctors treat social determinants of health? They cannot do much about a patient’s income or lifestyle choices, but they can still attempt to understand their situation and advise them on overcoming it.
For example, a patient with lousy eating or smoking habits can be helped if they want to put in the effort to change their ways. A primary care doctor can guide them in making the changes, but the patient must put in the work.
Unfortunately, it is difficult for many patients to change the bad habits they’ve had for their entire lives. The most common bad habits affecting people’s health are overeating, smoking tobacco, and substance abuse disorders. It is not enough to tell patients to quit doing these things because they already know their habits are bad. The best you can do as their doctor is to point them in a better direction.
For example, if you have a severely obese patient who cannot lose weight, you should first have them write down everything they eat and drink per day. Once you learn more about their daily food and beverage intake, tell them to reduce their intake of one of the bad foods they eat.
A minor change like that should be doable for them because you’re not telling them to quit altogether. Instead, you’re simply telling the patient to reduce their intake of one particular food. Then, a few weeks later, weigh the patient to see if they lost any weight. If they have lost weight, this experience of losing weight will motivate them to try harder with their diet going forward.
Focus on Progress Rather than Cures
Social determinants of health can take a lifetime to overcome. Therefore, a primary care doctor shouldn’t try to cure patients suffering from social determinants. A better solution is to help patients solve one minor issue at a time to create progress. Patients will feel better and become more motivated when they experience progress. It doesn’t mean all their aches, pains, and stresses will disappear, but they may not be as severe as before.
Find Out More Information
Would you like to find out more information on treating social determinants of health? Contact the Primary Medical Care Center today at (305) 751-1500 to speak with a qualified primary care doctor.