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12/15/23 employee experience

transforming children's health: 4 lessons from social needs screenings

doctor screening a mother and child patient

Introducing social need screenings at Dayton Children’s

Today, life essentials like toiletries and food cost more, rent prices are increasing, and social services that once existed are no longer there to support families. While it might not seem like it, more than 40% of a person’s health is impacted by factors that don’t include a doctor or hospital visit. These factors are known as social needs and can be barriers to optimal health and for children, potentially leading into poor health into adulthood.

At Dayton Children’s we have a unique ability to provide intervention for patients who have social needs that impact their health. That’s why the hospital has made it a strategic priority to implement social needs screenings in our chronic disease outpatient clinics and provide support around the follow-up process.

In this article we explain:

Screening to connect families to the support they need

Through the social needs screening and follow-up process, Dayton Children’s is better able to provide early identification of the unmet social needs that patients experience.

Once the family’s needs are identified by the screening in clinic, patients and their families are provided resources and follow-up by supporting staff in clinic.

Our social work, care coordination, and community health worker staff members meet with families to create a list of resources that fit their specific needs. We aim to assist and empower families to get the support they may need with these tools and find a sustainable solution moving forward.

The impact of social needs screenings at Dayton Children’s

For the past two years, the Center for Health Equity team has worked with Dayton Children’s employees across several clinics and departments to make the social needs screening process hospital-wide. Right now, the screening process is standard in eight clinics and will soon expand to more areas of the hospital.

There have been many lessons learned through this process, however these four unique lessons  have helped Dayton Children’s pursue our hospital value of equity for both patients and staff:

  1. Involving everyone improves communication: During the process of implementing the screenings we found that engaging members from every touchpoint in the process was essential to identifying potential pain points and areas of improvement. Including everyone means patient families, registration, clinic staff, managers, and directors.
  2. Create a team of catalysts: In the second step of the process, we used a team of “Clinic Catalysts.” This team was formed by using staff from every role included in the process. These staff members serve as the primary contacts for the implementation, helping to ensure representation from every role has a voice. These “Clinic Catalysts” also helped to spread education and updates to other members of the clinic.
  3. Follow-up is just as important as the screening: It was critical to recognize that there are two pieces of the puzzle when connecting families to resources: completing the screening and following up with them. Making sure that there are systems in place to account for both the process of screening and the process of resource provision and follow-up helps to lead to successful and equitable outcomes.
  4. Customize clinics for success: Finally, the most important lesson learned was the value of allowing each clinic to tailor these processes to best suit their clinic flow and patient population. Learning this lesson helped us to integrate the screenings more seamlessly into each clinic experience and workflow for both staff and the patient/family experience.

A patient’s social needs can have a lifelong impact on their health. Dayton Children’s recognizes our unique ability to provide intervention for these patients and has made it a health equity priority to implement social needs screening into our chronic disease outpatient clinics and provide support around the follow-up process.

As we continue to prioritize health equity, Dayton Children’s continues to ensure that we exemplify the hospital’s mission and the equity pillar of our values by providing support to ensure success with this initiative. 

Jessica Salem

Jessica Salem

executive director, Center for Health Equity
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