Study finds connecting patients with social services to address social determinants of health generates double-digit reduction in health care spending
Dr. Zachary Pruitt, assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, is the lead author on new research finding health care spending substantially reduced when people are successfully connected to social services to address social barriers, or social determinants of health, such as secure housing, medical transportation, healthy food programs, and utility and financial assistance.
The study, “Expenditure Reductions Associated with a Social Service Referrral Program,” released by WellCare Health Plans, Inc. and the University of South Florida is published in Population Health Management.
It assessed the impact of social services among Medicaid and Medicare Advantage members on health care costs such as physician office visits and emergency department use, reported an additional 10 percent reduction in health care costs – equating to $2,443 per person per year savings – for people who were successfully connected to social services compared to a control group of members who were not.
The findings add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that support for social service programs and interventions can improve community health outcomes and reduce health care spending, especially among Medicare and Medicaid populations who are often challenged by social determinants of health.
“While there is growing recognition that socioeconomic factors substantially affect a person’s health status, this research is an important step toward quantifying how addressing social determinants of health impacts health costs,” Dr. Pruitt said. “The results of our study show that providing social service assistance relates to significantly lowered health care spending.”