The terminology of social emergency medicine: Measuring social determinants of health, social risk, and social need

J Am Coll Emerg Physicians Open. 2020 Jul 20;1(5):852-856. doi: 10.1002/emp2.12191. eCollection 2020 Oct.


Emergency medicine has increasingly focused on addressing social determinants of health (SDoH) in emergency medicine. However, efforts to standardize and evaluate measurement tools and compare results across studies have been limited by the plethora of terms (eg, SDoH, health-related social needs, social risk) and a lack of consensus regarding definitions. Specifically, the social risks of an individual may not align with the social needs of an individual, and this has ramifications for policy, research, risk stratification, and payment and for the measurement of health care quality. With the rise of social emergency medicine (SEM) as a field, there is a need for a simplified and consistent set of definitions. These definitions are important for clinicians screening in the emergency department, for health systems to understand service needs, for epidemiological tracking, and for research data sharing and harmonization. In this article, we propose a conceptual model for considering SDoH measurement and provide clear, actionable, definitions of key terms to increase consistency among clinicians, researchers, and policy makers.

Keywords: emergency medicine; social determinants of health.