Adding Social Determinants in the Electronic Health Record in Clinical Care in Hawai'i: Supporting Community-Clinical Linkages in Patient Care

Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2019 Jun;78(6 Suppl 1):46-51.


Social and behavioral determinants of health, such as poverty, homelessness, and limited social support, account for an estimated 40% of health burdens and predict critical health outcomes. Many clinical-community linkages specifically focus on addressing such challenges. Given its distinctive history, culture, and location, Hawai'i has unique social factors impacting population health. Local health systems are striving to address these issues to meet their patients' health needs. Yet the evidence on precisely how health care systems and communities may work together to achieve these goals are limited both generally and specifically in the Hawai'i context. This article describes real-world efforts by 3 local health care delivery systems that integrate the identification of social needs into clinical care using the electronic health record (EHR). One health care system collects and assesses social challenges and interpersonal needs to improve the care for its frail seniors (aged 65 and older). Another system added key data fields around social support and inpatient mobility in the EHR to identify whether patients needed additional help during hospitalization and post-discharge. A third added a social needs screening tool (eg, housing instability, food insecurity, transportation needs) to its EHR to ensure that patient-specific needs can be appropriately addressed by the care team. Successful integration of this information into the EHR can identify, direct, and support clinical-community linkages and integrate such relationships into the care team. Many lessons can be learned from the implementation of these programs, including the importance of clinical relevance and ensuring capacity for social work liaisons trained for this work to address identified needs.

Keywords: acute care; electronic health record; routine clinical care; social factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Services / methods
  • Community Health Services / trends
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods*
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards
  • Electronic Health Records / trends*
  • Humans
  • Social Determinants of Health / standards*
  • Social Determinants of Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Vulnerable Populations / classification*