The Pain Patient and the Value of Their Social Determinants

Pain severity and poverty level. Adverse pain outcomes and their association with unemployment and lower education.  

These ‘social determinants of health’ (SDoH) refer to the economic, environmental, and social conditions of individuals’ lives that impact the health outcomes of individuals. The amplification factor of  inequities in power, money, and resources is where the knowledge of a person’s SDoH can help pain care providers have an awareness that tailors their recovery plan to meet the patient in the middle of their social and clinical circumstances. There is a deep lack of understanding about how the social circumstances of individuals’ lives shape their pain care experiences. In a study involving interviews with 18 physicians, all described situations in which their clinical management decisions were influenced by their patient’s SES.1

What we need is to better understand the complex interconnection of factors involved in the delivery of high-quality pain care, its relationship to care outcomes, and patients’ care experiences. The perspectives of socially disadvantaged individuals, in particular, are likely to have important implications for understanding inequities in pain care and what to do about them.  At a minimum, a starting place is to create an awareness of SDoH for the pain provider. Here’s one path.

Step 1: Gather the patient’s social determinants. Do that through proven tools like PRAPARE or Health-Related Social Needs (HRSN) Screening Tool.

Step 2: Make sure you have the SDoH results in front of you when forming a care plan.

Step 3: Look at the SDoH across your entire practice so have a deeper understand of who your patients are. This helps your entire practice support them, such as your front office in appointment compliance and your back office in revenue cycle activities.  And finally,

Step 4, keep up a regular cadence of gathering SDoH to be sure you are alerted to a change in social circumstances.

Do you want to talk more about these steps or how to actualize them for you? Reach out to our data team here.

1 Bernheim SM Ross JS Krumholz HM Bradley EH. Influence of patients’ socioeconomic status on clinical management decisions: A qualitative study. Ann Family Med. 2008; 6: 53-59

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