IMAGINE: A trial of messaging strategies for social needs screening and referral
Am J Prev Med
Health-related social needs are associated with poor health outcomes. Many primary care practices now screen and refer patients with health-related social needs to assistance organizations, but some patients decline screening or assistance. Improving communication about health-related social needs screening and referral could increase screening response and assistance acceptance rates.
This is a pragmatic, nonrandomized 3-stage trial of messages and communication strategies for health-related social needs screening and referral. Messages and strategies were informed by qualitative analysis of stakeholder interviews and were developed through an iterative, patient-, and stakeholder-engaged process.
Settings included 3 primary care clinics serving primarily low-income patients in western Colorado.
Stage 1 includes usual clinic processes for health-related social needs screening (form given to patients at the front desk without additional explanation), Stage 2 includes adding written patient-friendly messages regarding the purpose of health-related social needs screening and referral to usual clinic processes, and Stage 3 includes adding verbal messages delivered by a medical assistant (form given to patients by a medical assistant during the rooming process).
Main Outcome Measures
Primary outcomes include (1) screening form response rate and (2) acceptance of referral for assistance rate among patients with health-related social needs. Secondary outcomes include (1) comfort with screening, (2) perceived helpfulness of screening, and (3) receipt of explanation about screening.
All data collection and analysis occurred in 2021. Study Stage 2 was not associated with significant changes in any outcomes. Stage 3 was associated with decreased odds of screening form response at 2 of the 3 clinics relative to those of Stage 1 (OR=0.1, 95% CI=0.1, 0.3; OR=0.4, 95% CI=0.2, 0.7) but with increased odds of assistance acceptance (OR=2.1, 95% CI=1.1, 4.0) among patients with needs who responded to the screening form. Stage 3 was also associated with higher odds of patients perceiving screening as helpful and receiving an explanation about screening.
Altering practice workflows to provide verbal explanations of health-related social needs screening may reduce response rates but may encourage responders to accept assistance referrals. Optimal communication strategies and workflows will likely differ depending on the intended goals of health-related social needs screening and referral.
Nederveld AL, Duarte KF, Rice JD, Richie A, Broaddus-Shea ET. IMAGINE: A trial of messaging strategies for social needs screening and referral. Am J Prev Med. 2022;63(3, Supplement 2):S164-S172. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2022.04.025