Assessing the feasibility of an empathic inquiry approach to social needs screening in 10 federally qualified health centers
Objectives: Despite an increasing emphasis from health care organizations on patients' social health, there is debate about how best to screen patients for social health needs in practice. Empathic Inquiry is a patient-centered approach to asking about patients' social needs that incorporates motivational interviewing and trauma-informed care techniques to increase patient experience of trustworthiness and safety with their care teams. The purpose of this brief report is to describe the feasibility and acceptability of implementing an Empathic Inquiry-informed approach to social needs screening in 10 federally qualified health centers.
Methods: Clinical staff at community health centers implemented Empathic Inquiry as part of an 8-month learning collaborative. Patients completed surveys about their experience with Empathic Inquiry after screening conversations took place. Qualitative data on organizational implementation experience were collected monthly during 2018.
Findings: Eight of 10 organizations completed the learning collaborative and implemented Empathic Inquiry in practice. Of 132 patient surveys received, patients agreed (64% strongly agree, 28% somewhat agree) that being screened for social needs strengthened their relationship with their care team and 83% strongly agreed the conversation was a good use of time. Most patients (54%) indicated social health screening was appropriate at every visit, and 27% answered once every 6 months.
Conclusions: The Empathic Inquiry approach to understanding patients' social needs was feasible for implementation in community settings. Patients said the conversations were worthwhile, built trust with their care teams, and should be conducted every 6 months or more frequently.
Singer AR, Coleman KF, Mahmud A, Holden E, Stefanik-Guizlo K. Assessing the feasibility of an empathic inquiry approach to social needs screening in 10 federally qualified health centers. Perm J. 2023;1-7. DOI:10.7812/tpp/22.178. PMID: 37830869