A majority of patients feel providers should do more to identify and address their social needs, according to a new Kaiser Permanente survey released Tuesday.
Among the survey's key findings was that 97% of respondents said they felt their medical provider should ask about social needs during visits.
While 80% of patients surveyed reported they would find it helpful for their clinician to provide information on available resources or support to apply for help, only 42% said they would turn to their provider for such information.
Kaiser Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson said the survey results helped validate that social needs have an impact on patients' health, but he was still surprised by the number of people who directly linked the two.
He said he hoped the results will be used to raise awareness and help other organizations develop solutions. "This is validating that this is what's on the minds of millions of Americans every single day," Tyson said.
Tyson said the results of the survey showed patients viewed social needs as equally important to their health as medical care. Ninety-three percent of patients reported that they felt their medical provider should ask patients about their access to food and balanced meals.
"It's reinforcing that we're on the right path; that we need to look holistically at health and not just focus on one aspect of it like healthcare," Tyson said.
Those who reported experiencing an unmet social need in the past year were twice as likely to rate their health as "fair" or "poor" compared with those who did not experience an unmet social need, according to the survey.
The online survey was conducted May 8-20 and involved responses from more than 1,000 adults 18 years old and older.
Approximately 68% of respondents reported having at least one unmet social need over the past year. More than a quarter reported having had a social need that served as a barrier to their health within the past year, with more than fifth saying they prioritized paying for food or rent over seeing a doctor or getting a medication.
Transportation issues were also a big impediment, with 17% reporting they couldn't go to a doctor visit or pick up medications because they didn't have a ride.
More than a third of patients reported frequently or occasionally experiencing stress over accessing food or balanced meals, while 35% experienced stress over housing stability issues.
Kaiser also announced Tuesday that the health system's northwest region, which includes Oregon and southwest Washington, would be the first location to launch the new Thrive Local social care network.
The initiative will allow healthcare providers and caregivers to connect patients with community resources that can help them address their social needs. It will roll out across the entire system over the next three years.